Cass McCombs: Tip of the Sphere (ANTI-) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 26th, 2020  

Cass McCombs

Tip of the Sphere


Feb 13, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Press downloads of Cass McCombs' ninth album, Tip of the Sphere, were accompanied by a PDF note from McCombs explaining the recording of the album. In it, he muses, "What do I remember from this experience? Only emotional things dictated by the city." McCombs has always come off as a true folk artist in that he lives a bit outside time, processing his life through the experiences and people that the universe presents him and turning that process into song. Though Tip of the Sphere's recording process largely differs from McCombs' last several albums in that it was recorded pretty quickly in one studio, rather than pieced together over time, it is amusing and particularly appropriate that he remains as unassuming and appreciative as ever. The album, a charmingly rough-edged collection of sincere alt-country rambles and experimental grooves, is less topical and lush than 2016's Mangy Love but contains more personality and continues McCombs' hot streak as America's best folk singer/songwriter.

McCombs' wanderings star is front and center throughout Tip of the Sphere's lyrics. It opens with "I Followed the River South to What," detailing a conversation with a vagrant who, rather than struggling and suffering, embraces and appreciates his existence with striking wisdom. Hypnotic, the tracks extends over seven minutes and is a proper psych-folk-rock album opener. Next is "The Great Pixley Train Robbery," whose lyrics are almost lifted directly from an actual historical letter confessing to the titular crime. And then comes the best stretch of the album, including the aching "Estrella," the simple Paul McCartney-esque tune "Absentee," and the psychedelic, blissful "Real Life." This trio of songs is a furthering of the tender beauty found on Mangy Love. Much of the second half is made up of bitter musings on loneliness, death, and capitalism. These tracks may not have the charm or prettiness of the album's first half, but ideally you're a few drinks in anyway and are already prone to some light pensiveness. And by the time "Rounder" finishes things off with an endless bluesy shuffle, you realize McCombs has done it again, taken us along on a ride through the mystical ideas and common experiences of American people. A true folk artist. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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