Wit's End

The fifth album from singer-songwriter Cass McCombs is difficult to listen to without a side of Prozac, or at least a stiff drink. McCombs — an interview-shy soul who's toured with Modest Mouse — seems to slide into a deep, dark depression on Wit's End, lulling you into a minor-key state of mind without delivering emotional payoff. The best parts of his past efforts (a clear, ringing voice, skillful guitar playing, just the right amount of twang) are dulled down here; nuances become hard to distinguish under the cover of repetitive, mournful piano. Some songs do break free from the funeral tones; "A Knock Upon the Door" evokes a 1920s cabaret, adding woodwinds for a touch of color. But, like much of the album, the song doesn't go anywhere surprising — even though it runs on for nine minutes. As it lilts and sways, you can't help but wish that McCombs would just snap out of it.

Listen to "The Lonely Doll":

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