Anti - 2002 - 52 minutes

Sometimes people build records up into something they're not. Sometimes having a song in your collection seems the most important thing in the world and when you get it, you move on to something else. One worry is replaced by another and it never seems like there's a moment to stand back, be thankful and just take things for what they are.

Perspective is something that Milwaukee quintet The Promise Ring know a lot about. Over a couple of years and records they had climbed steady up the indie ladder in the US with their sensitive take on rock. And when they released their 1999 slice of poppy perfection 'Very Emergency', it seemed they were destined to become very big very quickly. But life had other plans.

Singer Davey von Bohlen was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a fist, and while it was removed and found to be benign, he developed a post-operative infection which required more surgery. More than enough to make anyone wonder about the value of verse/chorus/verse, but this story has the best and bravest of endings because The Promise Ring have made a truly great album.

Whereas their previous creations planted them firmly in the Emo camp, 'Wood/Water' sees them grow far taller than anyone could have expected, creating an atmospheric and deeply reflective record, which means more to you by the minute. Produced by Stephen Street, the man behind many of The Smiths' records, 'Wood/Water' has some of the most beautiful arrangements you'll have heard in quite some time, the gentlest of guitars and the most straight from the heart sentiments.

It's a testament to The Promise Ring's talents as writers that there's only one real singalong song here - the why-should-anyone-join-a-band? musings of 'On the Floor' - but its 11 other companions are every bit as compelling. Listening to von Bohlen's lyrics, it seems that many are thank you notes to life and whatever and whoever crosses his path, there's an empathy on this record that goes far beyond what you've been conditioned to expect.

You could single out the gospel-tinged redemption of 'Say Goodbye Good' and the crush-you-in-a-second beauty of 'Become One Anything One Time' as standouts, but that wouldn't do you, or The Promise Ring, any favours, because 'Wood/Water' sits as an experience, and one of the most life affirming you'll have this or any other year. This record will save you from just about anything. And that includes your worries.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Size of Your Life - Stop Playing Guitar - Suffer Never - Become One Anything One Time - Wake up April - On the Floor - Half Year Sun - My Life is at Home - Letter to the Far Reaches - Bread and Coffee - Say Goodbye Good - Feed the Night