This (Is What I Wanted to Tell You) by Lambchop
Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner is a master of reinvention. From his beginnings over three decades ago as an alt-country musician, the Nashville native has swirled through a litany of phases, landing now on his fourteenth studio album – an ambitious, electronica-tinged collection of sprawling stories. Stripped further back from his previous full-band incarnations, Wagner moves languidly through these songs, his gently auto-tuned voice communicating tales from across the spectrum of human emotion.
Few songs on the record are less than six minutes long – it’s all about textures here. These pieces build from nothing to peaking crescendos, dying back down again to let the instrumentation speak for itself. ‘Crosswords, or What This Says About You’ creeps to a climax before a shimmering piano solo brings it home. That piano, played by longtime collaborator Tony Crow, is a feature on this record, balancing the machinic, sometimes dissonant electronic sounds with something a little more grounded. Elsewhere, Wagner channels contemporaries like James Blake and Caribou, with synthesised sounds and vocals heaping on top of one another to create an intoxicating aural tapestry. The title track could be broken up into several smaller tracks within itself, such is the daring nature of Wagner’s experimentation. Yet on the last track, all is stripped away except the singer’s unadorned voice, a harmonica and a fingerpicked guitar – the way he always was, bare and honest.
The songs’ names tell stories within themselves – ‘The Air is Heavy and I Should Be Listening to You’, ‘The New Isn’t So You Anymore’. It all comes back to the title of the record – this is a confessional record, intimate as a whisper, and the meanings of Wagner’s words, the curiosities of his existence, become evident both within the music, and in the quiet spaces between.