What strikes you on first listen — well, strikes me, anyway — of Dropping the Writ is how pleasurable and unassuming it is. Here's Cass McCombs, an alt-/indie-rock-realm solo singer-songwriter that's not hiding behind a band name, not trying to out-gloom Nicks Cave or Drake, nor is he New Weird America(na). And to put the cherry on the sundae, McCombs sings in a high, harmonious voice that's easy on the ear! (What was he thinking?) McCombs is introspective but he's not whiny, self-absorbed, or precious, and all his Writs have subtle, distinctive, well-crafted melodies, their arrangements thoughtful without being gimmicky. With its resolute, majestic chorus, "Petrified Forest" would fit quite nicely on the Beatles' Abbey Road. "That's That" is a nifty study in contrasts — it has a casually swaggering cadence, a magnetic Tommy James-meets-Philip Glass melodic hook, and McCombs' limpid voice sounds as innocent as your very first heartbreak. Though Writ is hardly folk music, there's some refined, rolling acoustic guitar picking in a few songs, especially "Pregnant Pause." While the overall mood is exceedingly pensive — imagine a Posies or Ron Sexsmith album entitled Songs for Brooding Lovers — McCombs' tales have a comforting rather than wallow-in-it ambiance. Dropping the Writ is idyllic companionship for those wistful, overcast, curl-up-in-blankets (alone) times.
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