11 Songs, 53 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

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.

EDITORS’ NOTES

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.

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