When someone asks, “What are you listening to, these days?” You might respond with a classic. An objective, unquestionable, hit. A great piece of music. You essentially interpret this question as being asked for a recommendation. The other possible response is to name a band much more obscure, and music that’s much weirder and harder to get into. Thus, establishing your music credibility. The more obscure, and the more genre-bending, the better. If you can find some tracks where the singer is reciting Beat poetry while a bagpipe plays over an Afro-Latin rhythm section, with some sci-fi sound effects in the background for good measure, then you’ve really got something. Occasionally, however, an artist and album come along that will satisfy both kinds of answers. Enter Cass McCombs and Heartmind.
Heartmind is a very satisfying eight-track record. Electric guitars open the album with a song titled, “Music is Blue.” Perhaps a reference to the Paul Mauriat song, “Love is Blue” released in the 1960s. Catchy pop melodies and soft vocal harmonies permeate the following songs. Birds are heard chirping beneath track three. I couldn’t tell you what genre this is exactly. But, at the same time, I wonder if those labels even matter anymore.
“Unproud Warrior” comes midway and is perhaps my favourite track. Jazz-styled drums open the song, as McCombs recites a piece of prose, as if reading a letter, about a soldier. The song then mentions the novelists S.E. Hinton, Mary Shelley, and Stephen Crane. Literary references. Check!
Some foot-tapping, head-nodding, and gentle-swaying tracks follow, and bring us, ultimately, to the final song. The title track, “Heartmind”, concludes the album with a sonic and ambient landscape painted while McCombs softly sings a few lines. The track then gives way to four minutes of cacophony. An array of instruments creates what I can only describe as beautiful noise.
Yes, this album cradles you and challenges you. I enjoyed it, and I think it’s worth checking out. So next time someone asks you what you’re listening to, you can impress them by saying, “Cass McCombs’ Heartmind.”