Cass McCombs – Catacombs

catacombsCass McCombs has made his career on developing fascinating song cycles that at all times catches the listener’s attention while keeping them at arms-length. He’s proven himself a master of writing songs which confuse more than explain, that leave the listener with more questions going out of the song than they had going in. This is why his latest record Catacombs, which was supposedly written as a tribute to his wife, could be considered one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. With this record, McCombs has written confessional songs, opening himself to the listener more than he has ever done previously. Not to slight his previous material in any way, but seeing how well he writes confessional songs —being introspective without being sappy, avoiding clichés at every move —it’s a wonder why McCombs hasn’t made this move earlier. The songs on Catacombs carry a very personal tone with them without every sounding like another run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter album. Oddly enough, allowing himself to become so confessional in his songwriting has resulted in McCombs releasing arguably his most uncomfortable and confusing album to date. He lets you in so far you start questioning whether you actually want to be there at all. It’s fascinating. “Dreams-Come-True-Girl”, the lead-off track for the album is particularly stunning as McCombs sings in the chorus of his wife being his dreams come true, forcing the listener to deal head-on with his open expression of love, something seldom done in independent music today. Coming from such a previously opaque and confusing songwriter, it’s startling to hear him speak so openly, unafraid to sound a bit cheesy. It’s an honesty that’s refreshing to hear, making Catacombs one captivating listen. (Domino Records, Jeff Friesen