Cass McCombs – Heartmind
Cass McCombs honed his craft years ago, but still has the ability to surprise on his tenth album.
Heartmind melds seemingly opposing forces right from its very title, something that is continually seen throughout the album. It was inspired partly from the loss of close friends, but the mood is rarely sombre. More it seems to have galvanised McCombs' focus, adding a heft of sincerity to his occasionally flippant style.
However, the above point is not well supported by either of the album's bookending songs: Music Is Blue starts the album practically in media res, adding to a lineage of effortless shaggy-dog storytelling, while the title track finishes things on a note of slow, stinging guitar stabs, percussive tinkering and languorous uilleann pipes which leaves things to peter out in a loose fashion that doesn't really fit with the rest of the album.
But between those two songs there's some of McCombs' best work yet: Karaoke has gorgeous shimmery, staccato guitar invoking late 80s Cure, New Earth could be a modern (Nothing But) Flowers that relies on atmosphere over detail and Belong to Heaven gets its Fleetwood Mac vibes thanks to a nice turn from Danielle Haim. Unproud Warrior is a real gem – a rare look at the American military complex in the indie world that is neither sneering nor moralistic, just simple, genuine emotion played lovingly.
Listen to: Karaoke, Unproud Warrior