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Catacombs

Cass McCombs

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iTunes Review

Shedding musical skins from projects past, Baltimore’s Cass McCombs seems comfortable now in the skin he was born in; he’s a skilled and soulfully wry singer-songwriter, and his fourth record, Catacombs, conjures artists as wide-ranging as Slaid Cleaves and the Go Betweens’ Robert Forster. Opening track “Dreams-Come-True-Girl” is a lovely, slinky, make-out number that might reduce weaker souls to puddles, and it features a vocal cameo by quirky actress Karen Black. Choosing Black fits right in with the idiosyncratic McCombs’ creative view; an artist more focused on “hip” cred might have chosen Karen O. “The Executioner’s Song,” a funereal ode to an unlikely career choice, takes a cue from the delicious black humor of Mark Eitzel, while “My Sister, My Spouse” and “Harmonia” are creepily (the former) and beautifully (the latter) mesmerizing. With upright bass, piano, organ, and acoustic and steel guitar, there is texture and color aplenty on Catacombs, and listening to McCombs as he finds his way to a fitting musical niche is mighty satisfying.

Customer Reviews

Music that tells his and our story

Talk about music that talks to people yet wasn't intended to...Cass has no idea the impact his music has on people who have not much to live for.
I like that he writes the music purely as expression. No ego, no agenda, no message, no manipulation. Just music to enjoy and share.

If your simple, this is for you

Ignore iTunes

I'd never heard Cass McCombs before this, and— holy wow. "Catacombs" is gorgeous, nuanced, hypnotic, brilliant. Contrary to what the iTunes reviewer wrote, there are loads of hooks and melodies all throughout this wonderful album— including on "Don't Vote" and "My Sister, My Spouse." The album is beautifully spare. This cat really knows how to create alluring rhythms and use open spaces well. His singing is warm, clear, spot on. Closest comparison might be some of Andrew Bird's songs minus his flights of fancy (not meant as a criticism of Bird). Or as another reviewer smartly pointed out, Dylan's "Nashville Skyline." In particular, "My Sister, My Spouse" brings to mind the production, mood, and evocative vocals of "Lay Lady Lay," but by no means apes it. Not at all. Highest recommendation. One of the best things i've heard in years.
Also: BIG SHOUTOUT to Pitchfork.com for letting me and other users to listen to "Catacombs" and other albums from their top 50 of 2009 IN THEIR ENTIRETY, FREE (you can do it just once). Are you listening, ITunes?

Good songwriters write good songs!

Cass McCombs takes another step forward with this album. His lyrics are as direct as ever and the guy can flat out sing. I think "Don't Vote" and "The Executioner's Song" are superb, but all these songs are well written and played.

Biography

Born: 1977 in Concord, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Baltimore-based singer/songwriter Cass McCombs' moody but often surprisingly humorous music was aided and abetted by bassist Trevor Shimizu, keyboardist Natalie Conn, and drummer Dutch E. Germ (who has also played with Neil Michael Hagerty). Tours with the Oxes and Palace paved the way for McCombs' debut EP, 2002's Not the Way, which arrived on Monitor Records; A was released early the following year and was distributed in Europe and the U.K. by 4AD. McCombs and his band spent much of 2003 and 2004...
Full Bio
Catacombs, Cass McCombs
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