Music » Album Review

Lambchop; FLOTUS

Merge Records; Release date: Nov. 4, 2016

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This album kicks off with "In Case of 8675309," — surely a nod to the infectious '80s hit — a classic sounding Lambchop tune with slow and steady twang. The tune runs long at 12 minutes, matching "The Hustle," the album's 18-minute final track in timely accordance. But the latter strays from traditional Lambchop, venturing into more electronic, krautrock territory.

You'll find other examples of this new musical approach throughout the album. It easily draws comparisons to HeCTA, a side project formed by members of the band last year. Kurt Wagner of Lambchop uses electronic elements, along with vocal harmonizers and distorters to cross into a new realm of songwriting.

It's also evident on "Directions to the Can," a song co-written by Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo — the two are longtime friends and even performed together at this year's Big Ears music festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. The bass lines jump out, lending to a house music feel — electronic beats and drum machines, piano and hypnotic Auto-Tune is all there.

You don't have to always know what Wagner is saying to get into these vibes. On "JFK" he says: "I talk to much." But a lot of the rest is jibber jabber amidst spacey fragments and synchronized harmonies. There's something hypnotic about these tracks, and it all lends to the experimental nature of this disc.

Lambchop's folk elements have shifted towards electronics, hip-hop, blues and jazz. "Howe," "Old Masters," "Relatives 2," have mellow melodies that mix with robotic, beat-driven electronics and spontaneous keys and guitar/bass arrangments. It's a kick back and relax sort of album. Gone are the ornate string arrangements that have appeared on several of the band's previous releases, including their last album, 2012's Mr. M.

Lambchop has found the benefits that obscure sounds — verbal and musical — can bring to the table. These new soundscapes are very well the beginning of a new marinade added to an already juicy product.

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