In an age when brevity is everything—from the 140 characters we’re allotted by Twitter to the likely length of a new musician’s career—Nashville collective Lambchop should rightfully be huge, not just known and loved by a handful of thirtysomethings who used the phrase alt country when it was fashionable. And not because the band’s work is throwaway—quite the opposite—but because its leader, Kurt Wagner, is a master of economy. He’s the kind of writer who can make you cry with a quick, casual shrug of a phrase, something simple-seeming but absolutely ripe with meaning.
On Lambchop’s new album, Wagner’s deft way with phrasing hits a new sweet spot. Mr. M is dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt, and its songs throb with a warm love for human beings in their various states of struggle and joy. The arrangements are outrageously pretty (fairy-tale strings, brushed drums, twinkling piano notes), and the words reassuringly earthbound (the album’s first line has Wagner gently puzzling, “Don’t know what the fuck they talk about…”).
Mr. M was a long time in the works, and feels like an album made purely because it needed to be made; like the hatch of Wagner’s heart happened to be left open, and the tape machine happened to be rolling. The album does not sound like the band was concerned with earning a “Best New Music” accolade on Pitchfork; how very satisfying, then, that it did—that there’s still a place for profundity and poetry, and that a haiku is still different than a tweet.—Sophie Harris