Lovers

Guitarist Nels Cline’s Lovers is a two-disc concept album loosely exploring the misery that goes hand-in-hand with being in love. Spanning styles and emotions — and available on vinyl as well as CD — its 18 selections address love’s eternal dichotomy, best represented here by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s 1936 lament, “Glad To Be Unhappy” (“But for someone you adore/It’s a pleasure to be sad”). The music, too, finds the contrast, casting into the past, present, and future, locating the intense pleasures that can come of melancholy. Standards from Sammy Fain and Bronislaw Kaper mix with Sonic Youth’s dreamy “Snare, Girl,” and surreal soundtrack music from two decades-old cult films starring Charlotte Rampling. When songs have lyrics, those are included — there is also some heavy breathing — and the presence of those lyrics seems to enhance the moods Cline and arranger Michael Leonhart capture with their entwined orchestral variations and often lyrical guitar and synthesizer lines. Cline’s warm originals serve as introduction, interlude (the amazing “Hairpin & Hatbox”), and coda. Fans of the guitarist’s work with Wilco will recognize his tonal palette, the sweetness of his pedal-steel, the finesse of his acoustic, and the array of processed sounds he triggers — some hot and fuzzy, some soft and dispersed. But Lovers is about more than the guitar. It reveals Cline’s talents as conceptualizer, songwriter, and sonic dreamer.

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