Some albums are littered with unimaginative, recycled song titles, like ‘Crazy’ or ‘Hold On’. Gun Outfit don’t take any risks on that score, the Olympia, Washington band beginning their fifth album Out Of Range with a song called ‘Ontological Intercourse’, a track that turns out to be about the gruesome death of Orpheus. The tale has been told before, but not often via an alt-folk tune. It’s a pretty compelling start to the record.
The jewel in the crown of the whole album, though, is the second song, ‘Landscape Painter’, a slowly insistent number with a killer hook that takes a bit of time to sink in, but when it does, it really does. It’s a fabulous duet between twin front-people Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith, the former sounding like a marginally more chipper version of Lambchop‘s Kurt Wagner crossed with a pinch of prime time Bob Dylan, while the latter comes across like an American version of The Pastels‘ Katrina Mitchell. ‘Landscape Painter’ really is as good as that description suggests and is worth the admission price alone.
‘Cybele’, naturally about the Anatolian goddess, is a sparse and beautiful song that recalls something of Mojave 3‘s stellar early work, while ‘Strange Insistence’ picks up the pace, the spaces between the lyrics contributing to the track’s sound as much as the vocals themselves.
There is an understated charm to the album – many of the tracks need a few listens to reveal their full worth, but there are others that are pretty immediate: the aforementioned ‘Landscape Painter’ being the most obvious example, but the upbeat ‘Sally Rose’ is another instant winner.
Carrie Keith’s vocals throughout have a beautiful, untutored emotion which is never more evident than on the banjo-led country ballad ‘The 101’, which sounds like the kind of song that Cait O’Riordan used to do so well in The Pogues. The perfect foil for Sharp’s more earthy tones.
‘Primacy Of Love’ is the centrepiece of the second half of the album, a gently building track that looks at death and the failures of faith and actually features Sharp sounding like a slightly less chipper version of Kurt Wagner, while Keith’s ghostly backing vocals are restrained, forlorn and subtle.
The record ends on an autobiographical note, with the touching ‘Second Decade’, a song about the band being together for ten years with the candid observations “Oh my / Caroline / Can you believe how quickly a decade has gone by?” and “Can you believe how hard it is to keep a love alive? / Ten years of working / And all playing our parts”.
Here’s to the next ten.
Out Of Range is released by Paradise Of Bachelors on November 10th 2017.