[AMERICANA] To rock or not to rock? That has long been the question facing Weinland frontman Adam Shearer. But the real issue at hand for this solo songwriting project-cum-three piece-cum-folk ensemble is how big a sound to have. La Lamentor has an answer.
Though opening track “God Here I Come,” a spooky acoustic brooding on personal strength, first sounds more akin to Shearer’s earlier work, its spare strumming and prominent, lilting vocals soon make room for aching cello and chiming bells. “Sick as a Gun,” an album standout, drives the full-band sound home. A “bah-dum bah-dum” tympanic drum anchors the beat, a variety of strings jump and mingle, and Rachel Blumberg (Norfolk & Western, Bright Eyes, M. Ward) contributes haunting, near-childlike backing vocals. A meditation on fading love, it showcases Lamentor’s delicate production and notable contributors (such as notorious cellist Doug Jenkins) alike.
Described by Shearer as the most hopeless song on the record (despite its upbeat kick and catchy melody), “Sick as a Gun” doesn’t represent the album’s mood entirely. The minor sound of “Gold,” which features Adam Selzer’s distinctly distorted guitar and Shearer’s (really) uncanny ability to channel Neil Young, emerges with radiant organ and an encouraging refrain: “Don’t let go.” Moments of despair still arise—lyrics as dark as, “He knows he’ll always love her/ So he carves it in his arm/ Hoping she will call him and break his fucking heart” are followed by even more stinging conclusions: “Oh, but she won’t.” That said, the bright instrumentation and almost smiling vocals of semi-redemption songs like “Curse of the Sea” manage to counter the thematic weight—for the most part.
When it really gets dark, as the second half of the album does, release is found in a full-circle return to the band’s roots. The title track employs a controlled freak-out—but just when the organ bursts and furious strings reach a breaking point, the song unwinds, crumbling into a sonic mess. And, just as both band and album began, all clears out to make way for a crisp acoustic guitar and Shearer’s voice. He offers: “I’ll help you pack up/ Your books and your clothes/ And forward the letters/ Of friends who don’t know.” Heavy, yes, but damn is it beautiful.
Listen to "Sick as a Gun," from La Lamentor:
SEE IT: Weinland celebrates the release of La Lamentor Saturday, March 1, with Death Songs and Musee Mechanique at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+. Also Thursday, March 6, at Music Millennium. 6 pm. Free. All ages. Also see Here Comes Your Fan.