Back when I was still trying to find my footing in the San Diego Punk scene, I kept seeing one band’s name pop up over and over and over. It seemed like almost every other show I went to, some jerks named Western Settings were playing somewhere on the bill. This was great for me; I had an excuse to go get another drink or head outside for a smoke. I listened to their first self-titled EP, and eh, they were fine I guess. I’d watch them next time, lord knows they probably be fucking playing. Well, the day came and I stuck around to actually watch the band play and learned that my weird aversion to watching local bands had fucked me yet again. They are fucking amazing. Their first full-length and follow up EP, Yes It Is and Old Pain respectively*, are home runs. And on top of it all, the dudes in the band are amazing sweethearts and/or Will Castro. I learned my lesson: when Western Settings speaks, I will listen.
Then, of course, they went silent.
Sometime before I left San Diego for Chicago, Western Settings was nice enough to let me go on a short run up and down the West Coast with them. It was then that I heard some of the rough instrumental demos for their upcoming full-length. That was two years ago. Two thousand and seventeen. Well with A-F Records behind them, Western Settings – kicking and screaming – has FINALLY released their second full-length album, Another Year. Like Old Pain, this album is produced by Dead to Me‘s Tyson “Chicken” Annicharico. But unlike Old Pain, it features Thomas House on guitar instead of Dylan Wolters, who recently rejoined the band again, replacing Tom, who went off to do his own thing under the name Thomas Wayne. Still with us? Okay, moving on.
Another Year opens with the title track and probably my absolute favorite opening line in a song ever, “You’re doing alright, I mean, I guess you’re not dead yet.” The album showcases a natural progression of sound from Western Settings, tracks like “Break” and “Duckets Is Tight” are not too far off from something that would have appeared on Old Pain, while “Hermit” and “Charmian” are different enough to show the band has not grown stagnant. “Back to 52” is for sure the track I heard about thirty times in the van back on the tour, but finished stands out as one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s the closest thing to a Western Settings hardcore track.
The only real dim spot on the album to me personally is “Better.” It’s very slow and weird and I just don’t like it. I kind of wish it would have been an instrumental-only track, something this album is missing which was prevalent on both Yes It Is and Old Pain. Opposite of “Better,” is “That’s Pretty Good.” I fucking love this song and I cannot wait to get the lyrics to it so I can figure out what they hell Ricky says in the beginning of it. “Constatino, my bambino. I’d like to sell you my own soul” is where I’m at right now, but I know that has to be 90% wrong. Anyway, I can’t wait to see them play that last minute and a half of the song live. If they can even match half the intensity of the recorded version, it’s going to be fucking tight.
Look, I semi-retired from doing album reviews because I was running out of different ways to say “This album is fucking dope. Listen to it, idiot.” But I have a lot of making up to do for Western Settings after stupidly ignoring them for so long. So yes, this album is dope and you should listen to it, idiot. I’ve had it on repeat since I got it two weeks ago and I’m not sick of it yet. As a matter of fact, I like it more and more with every play through. Maybe you will too.
Another Year: 9 out of 10 guitarists that have quit forever or part time from Western Settings.
Vinyl Nerds! A-F Records has 350 copies on Ultra Clear with Heavy Gold Splatter and 150 on straight gold if you’re part of the sold out 2019 A-F record club. Over in Europe, Gunner Records is doing 100 on Ultra Clear and 400 on Blood Red. So if you’re into that shit, there you go.
*Western Settings also digitally released the EP WS, but no one ever talks about that one.