Mississippi duo Water Liars toured endlessly between the release of their February 2012 debut Phantom Limb and Wyoming, the stellar sophomore album out just a little over a year after their first. While Wyoming isn't by any means a collection of road-weary sagas à la Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," it does capture the sound of a band that's grown a lot through the old-fashioned process of taking it to the stage. The stripped-down arrangement of a drum and guitar two-piece has been approached multiple times with varying degrees of success, and singer/guitarist Justin Kinkel-Schuster's weathered songs find tasteful accompaniment in drummer/vocalist Andrew Bryant, who adds bright harmonies and rhythms that are either searing or subdued, depending on the song. While rooted in an alt-country songwriting vein, the vibe on Wyoming comes from thousands of nights spent in various dingy bars, and the songs tell the stories of broken hearts and broken lives with more depth and sophistication than is immediately apparent. After the rousing jaunt of album-opener "Sucker," the dirgy "Fake Heat" comes in at a crawling pace, telling the story of a darkly unhealthy sexual relationship and the lies told by both parties. It's slow and sad enough to pass by as an unnoticed, heart struck ballad until you start paying closer attention to the lyrics, which are more pathos than depravity. Elsewhere on "Wyoming," lyrics pop out like "You showed me the world is just an empty motel room" and "I'll die in Wyoming in a drug store parking lot, so high I'll believe that I am parked outside your house 2,000 miles away." The consistent strength of the songwriting hides some of the darker subtleties of the lyrics. Blue-eyed soul stand-out "You Work Days I Work Nights" is a great example of this, with catchy slow-burning guitar arpeggios all but masking a heartbreaking story of love growing cold in the shadow of the realities of blue-collar life. Wyoming is a bright and promising collection of secretly wrecked songs, and leaves us curious to see how Water Liars will continue to grow as they walk their thorny path.
|Label:||Fat Possum Records|