The wine tasted like sunshine in the basement

In our world, empty space is simply unacceptable. If you’ve got a plot of land, you should build some track housing on it. If your closet has some room in it, you should buy more things. If there’s a gap in your auto-tuned vocals, you should jam every possible arpeggiator function in there. But really, there is beauty in emptiness, in the infinite possibilities it provides, that filling the space can never achieve.

Lambchop’s Mr. M is an album rooted in the beauty that lies in vacuity. The Kurt Wagner-fronted alt-country collective strips its sound down to the skivvies on Mr. M and the resulting work of haunting, cool Americana is a thing to be marveled at. Very rarely can a record be so big while making so little noise. In essence, from its shiny cover down to its seedy boozy core, Mr. M is a timeless work. The sparse guitar arrangements bolstered by string sections wouldn’t seem out of place in frontier-day America, and neither would the D’Orsay garnishing fellow adorning the record’s cover. Yet there’s still something clearly modern, and even futuristic, about a record so consciously rejecting the strum-heavy contemporary country aesthetic which panders towards girls who inexplicably pride themselves on outdated Southern norms that places Mr. M firmly in the progressive underground.

Lambchop as a band is similarly in between categories, in their case popularity and irrelevance. Few bands can put out 11 albums period, let alone 11 works of mastery, but Lambchop has done so without ever flirting with the mainstream. Yet, Wagner seems to relish toiling in that obscurity, as evident by his uncomfortably frank lyrical topics, macabre humor, and an intentional wide shift in sound between albums. The sparsity of Mr. M is the ultimate embrace of Lambchop’s place as both monumental and diminutive.

This makes the wrestling-oriented for “Gone Tomorrow” video especially appropriate. These are men who literally decimate their bodies in triviality for the pleasure of others, and I’m sure the ever self-effacing Wagner would easily relate.  Entertainment always seeks to fill its own inherent void, the silence it occurs in, with the reaffirmation of applause. But no matter how hard you fight to fill up all the emptiness you find, the end result can never satiate the ineffable possibilities present in vacancy. So sit back, turn the volume up, and see how you fill in the spaces in your own heart.

Mr. M it out now via Merge Records.

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