Richard Buckner Dents and Shells

Richard Buckner’s sixth album is a continuation of his long trek from the literal into the land of Polaroid poetry, assembled on the floor into a map of almost generic heartbreak. Made up of details so personal you feel sorry for everyone who helped bring them into the pastiche, they’re ripped context-less and crucified onto his hotel/studio wall — details themselves frozen as the Orthodox ice church stumbled upon in the snows of Doctor Zhivago. "Call out to nothing in the wake of watching her sipping wine from a camping cup on some missing night,” Buckner sings mournfully on "Her,” "but did just enough ever give up?” Or, on "Straight”: "It’s done. Two days away, I packed up the last and signed my name. Goodbye my cold and stolen song. Never’s never been this long.” To say this album’s just about girls is like saying The Lord of the Rings is about jewellery. Like the best of his albums, namely Devotion + Doubt and The Hill, Buckner creates an entire universe with its own little rules and obsessions; this time the idea of a round peg in a square hole — locks that don’t quite work right. Rooted in his spare, acoustic folk sound with lots of pretty organs, the singer cautiously and patiently kills us repeatedly, especially on "Straight,” "Her” and the thunderous "Charmers.” It’s a great, progressive roots album, rife with the things that made us love Rick in the first place: slide guitar, tricky drums and whip-barren woe. But where he once intricately described someone killing themselves in a bathtub to get our attention, he’s now such a master of prose that his phonetics alone bring us to our knees. (Merge)