Mangy Love

No musician sounds quite like Cass McCombs. His songs feel invertebrate, squiggling around and circling back to melodic touchstones that bury themselves deeper with each pass. His lyrics are puzzle pieces that take dozens of listens to decipher and don’t always come together to form the picture you expect. He releases music in large bursts, alternating between dreamlike stories and direct sentiment. On Mangy Love, he addresses the troubles of our times in mostly oblique fashion. In “Opposite House,” he sings of being trapped in a depressed mindset by using surrealistic imagery of halls full of snakes and meditations on magnets while returning to the phrase “rain inside when it’s sunny out.” On the album opener, “Bum Bum Bum,” he sings of racist congressmen and police shootings with lines such as “How long before this river of blood congeals?” while easing the pain by gently landing each stanza on the rhythmic phrase of the title. Lest the mood get too dark, he unfurls a song called “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” over a bedrock of soulful music reminiscent of Van Morrison. The Grateful Dead influence creeps in here and there, as on the Jerry Garcia-esque “Switch,” and like Garcia, McCombs lets his rich compositions follow their own path, allowing the words to grow into something resembling folklore along the way.

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