Listen Up! Cass McCombs, Wit’s End

When we discovered Cass McCombs’s 2009 release, Catacombs, we knew we’d stumbled onto one of those rare records that holds its own from start to finish—the California native’s muted, desolate melodies and equally tender lyrics found us gushing like a tweenage girl crushing on the Biebs. With subtle influences from Lou Reed and Morrissey, McCombs is the epitome of a modern day master flying under the radar—much as Jose Gonzalez and the Wooden Birds have.

Needless to say we’ve been waiting with bated breath for McCombs’s latest record Wit’s End—especially after a particularly fantastic performance at Great Scott last year—which drops today, thanks to Domino Records. And on first listen, there’s nothing to dislike. Tracks like “County Line” and “The Lonely Doll” still have a folk- tinged throwback quality, with loping vocals and gentle strumming. Piano sits shotgun for most of the record, while guitar and percussion are in the back seat, fighting over who pinched who first. This instrumentation gives the album a more solemn tone—gone are the foot-tapping thumps and instantly catchy vocal lines of yore, which have been replaced with more somber subject matter like in “Buried Alive:” “Stinking corpse I smell but cannot see/ You hateful neighbor…Maybe I’m wrong/ Maybe I’m working for the dead.” But, keeping the album’s title in mind, even though we’re not instantly bowled over by this record, we can’t help but embrace McCombs’s choice to explore new emotional territory—even if it’s deep, dark territory.

Catch McCombs with Sleepy Very Sleepy and Brendan Little on Tuesday, May 10th at Cafe 939. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased via Ticketmaster.