By: Matthew Jaworski
Lambchop's tenth release, OH (ohio) (released October 6 on Merge Records), preserves their trademarks – lush melodies, hushed sing-speak vocals, magically beguiling lyrics – while they explore new, genre-bending, sonic landscapes. The band has always blended different musical flavors (alt-country, soul, R&B, straight-up rock) into a sound that is wholly their own, and this record continues that tradition. Though the album is much more sanguine than their previous effort, 2006's excellent Damaged, this release could hardly be considered cheery. Frontman Kurt Wagner masterfully sings about the simple beauty in the world, but he's honest (or, perhaps, jaded) enough to warn that this beauty won't last long.
While Wagner, as usual, is the focal point, the rest of the band members contribute nicely; their refined embellishments – such as the '70s easy listening woodwinds on "Of Raymond" or the driving piano backbone on "Sharing a Gibson with Martin Luther King Jr" – round out the album's lush, full timbre. Likewise, producers Roger Moutnot and Mark Nevers give the record an atmospheric yet "live" and untouched sound that superbly reinforces Wagner's guileless voice and candid lyrics.
Kurt is a supreme wordsmith who deftly mixes details with ideas, melancholy with joy, hope with despair. In "I’m Thinking of a Number (Between 1 and 2)," Wagner sings, "But I want to say this/ Say it so it won't go away/ Set like stains on my jacket/ Gravy from Christmas Day." He dribbles little minutiae throughout every song so that you feel like he lived every word he sings. Nevertheless, he's not afraid to sometimes keep things either vague or even surreal, like when he sings, "Without your eye-patch and your parrot/ I’ve been informed it's National Talk Like a Parrot Day," on the record's most upbeat song, "National Talk Like a Pirate Day."
Overall, OH (ohio) is another subtly stellar album from a very underrated band. It will wrap itself around you, if you want it to.
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