Monday, June 27, 2011

Wit's End - Cass McCombs

Wit’s End

Cass McCombs
Domino Records.

SCQ Rating: 80%

The delicacy of Wit’s End requires its own set of beginners’ rules. Something this sedate, this seemingly ornery, needs full submission on the listener’s part or else it’ll slip with ease into the background. After playing it at low volume while surfing the web and nearly passing on it altogether, I can only offer the following advice to any future listeners: step into it without preconceptions or distractions and let the warm numbness of Wit’s End coil around you.

Compared with the rest of the album, opener ‘County Line’ almost has a swagger to it. And by swagger, I mean Cass McCombs sounds enlightened, relaxed, mindful but unbothered by Wit’s End’s looming demise. The remaining seven songs unfurl as stately, measured ruminations that repeatedly reflect Leonard Cohen’s fatalist streak (not to mention his knack for uncluttered folk arrangements). From the coffin-cramped soliloquy of ‘Buried Alive’ to the Elliott Smith tinged songwriting behind ‘Memory Stain’, McCombs proves himself a worthy heir to this semi-tragic vein of songwriting with writing that opens stubbornly but then latches onto your heart. McCombs never bullies himself too seriously; certain lyrics and flourishes tend to break through his mourning like rare rays of light through overcast, with ‘Hermit’s Cave’ and ‘The Lonely Doll’ committed largely to the silver linings of lamenting. And although the most defiantly downtrodden couplet lingers like a long shadow at the record’s close, Wit’s End remains a beautiful dirge.

Cass McCombs - The Lonely Doll by DominoRecordCo

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