Shakey Graves – …And the War Came

Alejandro Rose-Garcia – aka Shakey Graves – finally released his sophomore album after three years of feeding fans occasional snippets on YouTube and Bandcamp. As it happens though, only two tracks (‘Call It Heaven’ and ‘Family and Genus’) are truly unreleased; the rest have been previously let loose via live recordings.

…And the War Came has an undeniable streak of melancholia about it. Esmé Patterson provides dissonant harmonization on four out of ten tracks, and general layering of vocals and percussion amounts to a fuller, more mature piece of work than Garcia’s first album. Some of the duets remind me uncannily of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and not in a good way. Because Garcia has been putting out music for nearly ten years as a one-man-band, it’s a bit strange to hear him in a “full band” kind of setting.

Some tracks are surprisingly good (‘Call It Heaven’ and ‘Pansy Waltz’ are particularly noteworthy), while others are palpably irritating – in particular the offered rendition of ‘Dearly Departed’ which is mediocre at best, but much, much worse when compared to live, solo versions released previously.

It’s almost as if Garcia attempted to premeditate and replicate a sound that’s intrinsically dynamic and ephemeral. Admittedly, it must be hard as an artist to decide how to perform and produce a song when you never once play a song the same way. The album is lilting and twangy, but in a polished, tight, practiced, and artificial way. There’s a tangible urge to fit neatly between folk and country, whereas Garcia’s live material is almost unclassifiable, and enticing precisely because of its imperfections.

Garcia stated in an interview that he finds the prospect of producing an album in keeping with his live sound “boring”, yet …And The War Came lacks energy and grit in the same way Roll the Bones does, albeit not to the same degree. Maybe the hiccups just amount to growing pains as Garcia sets in motion a deliberate transition in his career.

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