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Cass McCombs remains as earnest and heartfelt as ever on Heartmind


Release date: 19 August 2022
Cass Mc Combs Heartmind
22 August 2022, 00:00 Written by Janne Oinonen

On first glimpse, these songs from Cass McCombs can seem simple, predictable even. Such first impressions are misleading.

“Karaoke” pitches itself as a clever love song staged amidst boozy assassinations of pop classics (‘’are you going to Stand By Your Man?’’ etc.). Listen closer, and the bouncy '80s alt-pop earworm vibes of the song hide deeper ruminations about the authenticity of our emotions: are we actually feeling it, or are we hollowly mimicking what is expected of us? The slow-burn Pentangle-go-country-psych swing of “Unproud Warrior” unfurls like a standard issue character study of a regretful former soldier. Yet as the song’s gorgeously unhurried rumble – decorated deliciously by the mournful fiddle and backing vocals of Charlie Burnham – progresses, McCombs gradually discards every cliché related to the limits of individual choice you might associate with the protagonist’s circumstances (‘’a soldier is not a cog, but a man like any other’’) without ever losing sight of the song’s humanity and compassion. McCombs isn’t being clever for the sake of it: the complexity adds to the songs’ emotional resonance.

Written for a departed friend, the sublimely smooth Yacht Rock glide of “Belong To Heaven” – including a, er, heavenly chorus of singers to catapult McComb’s warm conversational tones into higher regions of loveliness – proves McCombs is just as apt in emotional directness, drawing a moving portrait of a complicated human being who is equal parts ‘’totally lunar’’ and ‘’a grease fire burning bright’’ in a few tight verses. Remarkably, Heartmind coheres into a seamless album despite cruising unpredictably from the angularly crunchy King Crimson/Tortoise post-prog-rock blend of “Music Is Blue” to the heavy-lidded, liquid flow of the title track’s extended cosmic jam (with hints of the ageless beauty of John Martyn’s “Small Hours”) via the percussive calypso vibes of “Krakatau”.

is aptly titled: these are ultimately earnest and heartfelt, deeply felt songs. Yet the mind – the brain’s capacity to twist reality into complicated concepts questioning the seemingly obvious – gets an equal billing in McCombs’s writing. The infectious results deserve to elevate McCombs beyond his durable cult hero status.

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