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The Tripwire: On Cass McComb's Formidable Year

Cass McCombs stated earlier this year that he doesn't write albums. He simply writes songs, compulsively, and doesn't look back until he's made enough to create something. This might be surprising, given the cohesion that McCombs' albums—this year's stellar Wit's End, in particular—exude. But it makes sense. McCombs experiences things adamantly and only adamantly, feels to his core. He has enough conviction to create a strong aura around a whole album, creating a unit from thrown-together songs. And the modesty with which he downplays "writing albums" makes it no less impressive that he'll release another full length, Humor Risk, in November, a mere seven months after the melancholic Wit's End arrived.

One rationale for McCombs’ prolific output is his use of songwriting to combat loneliness. Near the release of Wit's End, McCombs wrote a letter, stating: “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.” It’s a transparent, vulnerable explanation. Yet, that kind of forsaken sentimentality is rarely found in McCombs’ catalog. Instead he plays a unique storyteller, occasionally weaving his own sentiments into gripping narratives of gothic characters and troubled modern couples.

On Wit's End McComb's somberly painted concise imagery. It's not a carefree listen. But November’s Humor Risk promises a lighter McCombs. The record’s preview track, “Same Thing,” feels more upbeat than just about anything McCombs has ever done. But it's also about why pain and love are the same thing. Still, it’s not a resignation or a dour lament, simply an idea doled out with McCombs' usual conviction. He seems content for you to take it how you will, as long as he can keep writing these songs. Fair deal.

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The Tripwire: On Cass McComb's Formidable Year