David Grubbs An Optimist Notes the Dusk

David Grubbs is notorious for walking that fine line between pop and avant-garde, yet rarely on the same album. As a solo artist, each Grubbs release has almost fallen in one camp or the other, making it a guessing game as to which to expect from the former Gastr del Sol member. Finally, he’s putting both feet forward with his latest, An Optimist Notes the Dusk, an album of five song-oriented tracks (the pop) followed by one sprawling 11-minute-plus drone (the avant-garde). The beginning leg gives you Grubbs the neo-folkie, where he builds songs off his skeletal guitar patterns and talk-sung vocals before treating them to trumpets, organs and free-jazz percussion. As for the ending piece, "The Not-So-Distant,” it’s classic Grubbs hypnosis, which "steps into the void,” as he puts it. Together, you get an album that contains some of Grubbs’s most melodic, and often tear-jerking, songs in years, and yet one that ensures he keeps his experimental cred, which isn’t a bad combination at all. (Drag City)