Cass McCombs Dropping the Writ

Cass McCombs has a way of making the familiar seem unfamiliar, of making music feel close to home yet detached and distant. This conflicting quality can be heard on each of his full-lengths: his art-folk debut, A; its pop-tinged follow-up, PREfection; and now his latest and arguably most rewarding record, Dropping the Writ. Unlike past albums, Writ’s reserved and arcane ballads don’t try so hard to please, keeping McCombs’s overly expressionistic tendencies in check and giving the record a more honest, less affected feel than previously. With stripped-down accompaniment, the songwriter simply strums gorgeous folk-styled compositions such as "That’s That” and "Morning Shadows,” which float effortlessly from chord to chord and are in no hurry to get anywhere fast. And the album’s better for it, sticking to an aesthetic that shifts from the dreary to the uplifting and back again. And while Writ may not be as instantly gratifying as McCombs’s older work, it definitely has a way of getting under your skin, which is often a sign of long-term satisfaction. (Domino)