Songwriters have been writing sad songs since the medium’s inception. Yet sometimes you find an album with such restlessness and longing that it seems like a novel idea once more. In the past, Mississippi-via-St. Louis duo Water Liars’ songwriting has been compared to veterans such as Dawes, Grizzly Bear, and even Fleet Foxes, but their sophomore effort, Wyoming, has more mental meandering and grit than all of the above.
Singer/songwriter Justin Kunkel-Schuster uses the expanse of Wyoming (both the state and the album) to work through his thoughts. The slower songs have a plains-state reverb and hum to the guitars that glow like the flickering light on the back porch. “Bird of Song”, with the lines, “He can only love you in songs / he’ll just keep on getting it wrong/ so carry on,” or “You Work Days I Work Nights”, where Kunkel-Schuster howls out, “I’ve been wonderin’ what to do about you/ and I’ve been wonderin’ what you’ll do about me,” both have a simple honesty that resonates. They aren’t overwrought or overdramatic; they’re the late night napkin thoughts that are never carried out.
The other half of Water Liars, drummer-vocalist Andrew Bryant, adds a strong backing beat (“Sucker”), but he also knows when to tone it down to slower heartbeats (“Fake Heat”). Bryant and Kunkel-Schuster work this push and pull well: Kunkel-Schuster’s pained howl will stop you in your tracks, while Bryant’s simple beats will defibrillate your heart soon after.
Wyoming has its share of comparisons, sure, but it’s also another breed of emotionalism. It’s the delirious yet quiet depression that too many of us never shake off — odds are you won’t want to here.
Essential Tracks: “Fake Heat”, “Bird of Song”, and “Sucker”