Elusive Californian Cass McCombs is said to lead a nomadic existence, living on coaches, campsites and in cars. So it comes as no surprise to detect a feel of restlessness in his intimate bookish songs. His third album to be released with Domino, and fifth-and-a-half in total, was two years in the making and recorded in various homes and studios across the US. Reunited with Ariel Rechstshaid on production duties, who also worked on 2009’s Catacombs, they’ve built on the great promise of that album.
Wit’s End opens with easily the most accessible and focussed song, County Line. The album’s lead single, it’s a sun kissed slice of classic romantic Rhodes organ fuelled pop of infectious melodies and swooping falsetto. Akin to David Vandervelde‘s similarly gorgeous I Will Be Fine, it’s a soundtrack to walking along a beach with a lover. After this a darker downbeat melancholy dominates across a sparkling The Lonely Doll, distant chiming Buried Alive, and the gently rising sad piano refrain of Saturday Song.
Memory’s Stain starts with a classical piano feel and seems fused with self doubt. “I have a confession in the form of a question,” he sings, full of yearning. The song seems to end then gives way to an elongated bass clarinet coda. Hermit’s Cave starts with the bouncing optimistic waltzing verse “In my 27th year, I set out to confront my fears, and found the role of a lifetime” yet breaks down into a sparse, bleak chorus. Pleasant Shadow Song has a charming lilting melody, while epic nine minute closer A Knock Upon The Door is all Tom Waits-like lo-fi percussion with sounds of spoons hitting glasses and feet stamping on the floor.
It will be intriguing to see where Cass McCombs goes next. A little more light and shade wouldn’t go amiss, yet even his dark side is eminently loveable.