Mac McCaughan: The Sound of Yourself (Merge) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, November 29th, 2021  

Mac McCaughan

The Sound of Yourself

Merge

Sep 28, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


“Will you ever get used/To the sound of yourself,” Mac McCaughan asks on the title track of his latest record, only the second one released under his own name. The question doubles as the first lines sung on The Sound of Yourself, which follows the unexpected instrumental opener “Moss Light.” The opener bubbles with rolling percussion while synths, horns, and chimes build up to create a serene yet mysterious ambiance. Is this the record we’d expect from the indie rock veteran? Indeed, it’s hard not to take the album’s title as a challenge McCaughan made for himself.

McCaughan does imbue the album with the rock sensibilities he’s best known for as a member of Superchunk, though not as often as one may expect. He uses his talent for crafting hook-driven rock on the standout single “Dawn Bends” to great effect (fellow Superchunk member Jon Wurster plays the drums on the track while Yo La Tengo contributes organ, vocals, bass, and electric guitar). “Circling Around,” with McCaughan’s crying falsetto over thumping guitar and bass strumming, wouldn’t feel out of place on a Cymbals Eat Guitars record.

Yet there’s also no denying McCaughan’s recent film score writing experience on the album. The piano instrumental “36 and Rain” comes complete with bouncing effects and a synth-driven ambiance that evokes a dramatic film scene. Later in the album, there’s “R Dream,” an even more serene track that spreads synth notes over a six-minute runtime. McCaughan’s approach on these efforts may remind listeners of indie rocker Chad VanGaalen’s electronic experimentation on World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener.

At times, this breadth of exploration feels like a lack of focus. The album’s title track does feel out of place coming after “Moss Light,” for instance. Album closer “Found Cricket” is another instrumental track that, apart from the addition of some distant guitar playing, occupies the same territory as the album’s opener. Yet credit is nonetheless due for a musician who, with a 30-year-plus career, refuses to coast with any single sound on his records. It’s clear The Sound of Yourself was a challenge McCaughan took seriously. (www.macmccaughan.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10



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