Wits End is Cass McCombs’ fifth studio album. Wit’s End was recorded over a span of two years, in various homes and studios across the states.

The opening song, “County Line,” is the album’s easy masterpiece. A slow burning, soul-tinged mellow tune, it is a song that begs for repeated listens. The electric guitar delicately dances around the solid foundation provided by the acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and warm tones of the organ. The sound is wide open and McComb’s vocals are wonderfully recorded. His vocal delivery has a touch of Paul Simon (think: “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”), although a bit more drugged out. Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s (Beck, Fiona Apple) bass playing on this song, and the entire record, is awesome, with a deeply rich sound to match.

At times, McCombs’ hushed vocals and sensitive acoustic guitars will recall Elliot Smith and other indie-folk trailblazers. “The Lonely Doll” has a wide soundstage with  heavily panned acoustic guitars, celeste, and a delicately brushed drum set. McComb’s vocals are sensitive and with a touch of Buddy Holly reverb. The Hammond B3 organ is playful and circus-like on this track; just a simple waltz, a playful, late-in-the-evening circus tune. The main melody on “Buried Alive” could have easily appeared on a solo Syd Barret record. By the end of Side A, you realize that McCombs wants to keep the sound relaxed and depressing. Fans of Beck’s Sea Change, will appreciate the mood, although the songs on Wit’s End lack Beck’s self-mocking humor and triumphant core.

McCombs’ lyrics are dark and mysterious; not very surprising considering his tendency for the dramatic (he has declared that he would like his tombstone to read: “Home At Last”). In a letter sent to the music website, Stereogum, McCombs writes: “I know people get lonely because I do, so that’s what I end up writing songs about, how you get lonely sometimes and come up with these big ideas that give you meaning for a second but then leave you like everything else leaves you.”

Mastered by the infamous Bernie Grundman, the vinyl I own has some noticeable surface noise but nevertheless sounds great.

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Cass McCombsWits End

Domino USA– DNO296

Mastered By – Bernie Grundman

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Joseph Weiss is a musician, recording engineer, and composer. He is a vinyl monster, has a weakness for tubes, and believes that you should always trust your own ears.

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