Merge may want to re-examine the status of "Nashville's Most Fucked-Up Country Band" as an altcountry outfit. Lambchop's latest is markedly different from its comparatively lush, heavily orchestrated predecessors (most notably 2000's commercial/critical hit Nixon). Principal songwriter Kurt Wagner's amiable croak and pianist Tony Crow's Vince-Guaraldi-in-Vegas lounge trip wind comfortably along in a manner aptly described by Wagner as "dark and breezy." Each song whispers as though it's meant to be a closing ballad or a quiet soundtrack to a Sunday morning spent coming down. Pushed to the forefront, Wagner's ciphered lyrics are an unmistakable invitation to the listener to soak in the intimacy of their comforting strangeness.

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Bryan Carroll