Monday, November 11, 2013

Gut Feeling: Richard Buckner - Surrounded

Richard Buckner – Surrounded
Merge, 2013
On the surface, these songs feel like hushed acoustic ballads plucked out by a solitary man recorded at some sanctuary a hundred miles from the nearest living human. Buckner’s soft yet subtly gravely vocals are what alt-country and modern Americana sound like when I think about the platonic ideals of those genres. Mostly because Buckner’s songs “Blue and Wonder,” “Surprise, AZ,” and “Lil Wallet Picture” opened my ears to the twangier side of reality. And yet as lonely as Buckner’s music feels, my favorite aspect of Surrounded is Tucker Martine’s production, which deftly accentuates Buckner’s austere songs in a way that feels organic and unobtrusive. Martine’s ability to make everything he touches shine a little brighter without being is what makes Buckner’s tenth album in his nearly twenty year his best. Like so many mournful-guy-and-a-guitar albums, Surrounded is an album built for driving down the highway late at night. Even though it’s not actually a mournful-guy-and-a-guitar album. Though Buckner’s finger picked acoustic is the primary supplement to his vocals, Surrounded’s landscape is laced with a variety of keyboards, synthesizers, seamlessly layered backing vocals, and a number of instruments that feel like favorites from Martine’s work with the Decemberists. It sounds like a lot, but there is a tremendous amount of restraint. Every song feels like it has its own flavor, which for a singer-songwriter album is no mean feat. Surrounded displays two different kinds of excellent craftsmanship, and I can only hope this is only the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Buckner and Martine.

"When You Tell Me How It Is"



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