Feb 23, 2012 Web Exclusive
Lambchop are exactly the kind of artists the word "singular" was invented for, operating on their own wavelength in a city of rather strong wavelengths—Nashville—for two decades now.
Starting out somewhat confusedly in the alt-country bin, the group now demands its own damned bin—one that can encompass that indie-centric ethos as much as it plucks from vintage R&B, from glossy '70s Nashville, and nearly every other kind of popular American music.
Mr. M is the band at its best—lush is the word, and frustratingly effortless, and yet so grounded by lead oddball Kurt Wagner's creaking voice and timeless themes—love, everyday life, and especially loss (the album is dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt). It's another contradiction, a subtle genre-jumper but a cohesive whole.
"2B2" has that Shoals soul vibe the group sometimes strives for, Wagner singing up at the top of his register (which ain't particularly high, but has a nice syrupy timbre). "Gone Tomorrow" is all fingerpicking and wisdom, ending in a wonderful instrumental passage with sparse strings, odd electronic sounds, piano, and an effervescent drumbeat—post-rock Lambchop, served up beautifully. "Gar" is a countrypolitan instrumental, complete with harmonicas and female oohs/ahhs, a touch of playful camp.
"Never My Love" closes things out, not a cover of the golden oldie, but a quick little Wagner take on the simple beauty of a love song. Lambchop, as always, juggle the painstakingly sophisticated with the homespun and necessary. They're like a weird quilt, Wagner and crew—warming us up again with kaleidoscopic patchwork. (www.lambchop.net)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10