Lambchop – Mr M

Artist: Lambchop
Album: Mr. M
Label: Merge
Rating: 7.9

Known originally as Posterchild, 1990’s alt country band Lambchop has scoped a number of different genres since their formation in 1986, the most recent of which, Mr. M, is a spacious, dreamy and classic collection of songs. The album is their eleventh studio album which accompanies a great body of work; three cassettes, one album as Posterchild, five compilation albums, six live albums and four EPs.

The band is without a consistent core line up, however their latest album was created by eight members including original co-founder Jonathan Marx and the band’s creative centerpiece Kurt Wagner. The American singer songwriter’s minimal style is central to Lambchop’s sound and his warm gentleman’s voice pierces their songs with croaks of emotion. As described on the band’s website, their sound is constantly changing or “evolving” with each album and has ranged from an alternative country vibe to post-rock, soul and lounge influenced outcomes. This album is certainly one of the more chilled out, reflective releases from the band.

Recorded at Mark Nevers’s Nashville Beech House studio and dedicated to Vic Chesnutt, Mr. M is a comment on love, loss and everyday existence. The beautiful string arrangements that will blow you away (especially in the opening track If Not I’ll Just Die) come courtesy of Peter Stopschinski and Mason Neely and layer the tracks nicely throughout. Gone Tomorrow is, despite the name, an upbeat and positive number with a musical interlude going from middle to end and is characterized by atmospheric strings.

Gar introduces the use of female harmonies and piano on the album, the result is an angelic sounding, relaxed piece. Buttons is open with emotion as Wagner sings “I used to know your girlfriend, back when you used to have a girlfriend” he tells the story of a broken relationship and reflections on the past. The Good Life (is wasted) is similarly dark and brooding; the lyrics in the hook are “the good life is wasted on me”.

Wagner’s voice sounds best when he is straining, spitting the lyrics like in the song Kind Of, it sounds like he is using all of his effort to form the words and is very affecting. Betty’ s Overture is, like the name suggests, an overture, an instrumental introduction for the final statement. This final song Never My Love, is full of string picking, sweeping classical soundscapes and more beautiful female melodies sang over-top. A bold and introspective way to end the release.

Mr. M is due for release this February 21st. Lambchop are currently touring Europe.

Reviewed by Heather Welsh.

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