Water Liars’ “Wyoming”

“The Water Liar’s debut album, Phantom Limb, was to be consumed in an amazing rush; their second release Wyoming is of the sipping kind given its slow burn.” -CB

Cameron Barham

out of 10

Water Liars
March 5, 2013
Fat Possum Records

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
Flannery O’Connor

Some things are to be chugged all in one visceral swoop, while others are to be sipped slowly and enjoyed over time as the fire begins low in the core of your being. The Water Liar’s debut album, Phantom Limb, was to be consumed in an amazing rush; their second release Wyoming is of the sipping kind given its slow burn.

Andrew Bryant and Justin Kinkel-Schuster recorded Wyoming in twice as much time as Phantom Limb (6 days instead of 3!) at Dial Back Sound (a studio instead of a house) with Bruce Watson at the helm. The differences are clear as this record grants Kinkel-Schuster’s vocals plenty of room to roam the contours of the jagged peaks of desolation and regret with only occasional glimpses of possible contentment. His smooth ache and howl settles into this terrain perfectly like a gentle mist in a valley (“You Work Days I Work Nights” and “Bird of Song” for example). The overall musical style of Wyoming is much less immediate and far more gently rolling with an occasional thunderstorm that blows in for a moment as perfectly placed in “Fine Arts.” This batch of songs plays like a book of short stories dog-eared by the harsh realities they represent.

The album opens brilliantly with “Sucker” which contains familiar reverb and failed relational content as Kinkel-Schuster offers, “So thank you for the cigarettes, Yes, I’ll have some coffee, Throwin’ out the old regrets, And crawlin’ after glow-ree, Crawlin’ after glow-ree!” The next two tracks, “Fake Heat” and “Linens,” downshift but continue to explore the mysterious and baffling interplay between men and women. “Linens” contains the most tender moment on the album as Kinkel-Schuster longs, “What I would give to be quiet beside you, With the window open and a record playing low, To feel your skin between the clean bed linens, Inside a room where sadness never goes.” On “Backbone,” the theme shifts to familial regret as the reverb returns briefly before giving way to a gentle waltz through a number of introspective questions (“Did I steal my father’s emptiness, Did I hear my grandma call me blessed, Mistake the sweat for saltiness, Have I been deaf to all of this?”). The 50’s rocker, “Cut a Line,” and the gentle, “How Will I Call You?” bring the first half of the album to a close.

The second half continues the interplay between questions of hurt and statements of regret with the title-track, “Wyoming.” This is one of the best songs that I have heard so far this year. The melancholy is palpable as the base line lurks underneath Kinkel-Schuster’s haunting declaration: “I call to you, I wait for you, I drink you drop by drop, And I’ll thank you, For beating all the trustin’ out of me, You showed me, The world is just an empty motel room, I will die in Wyoming, In a drugstore parking lot…” After the previously mentioned “You Work Days I Work Nights,” “Fine Arts,” and “Bird of Song,” the album closes perfectly with “Fire,” an aching sonic wave gently driven along by Bryant’s distant drum beat. This song and “Wyoming” are what distinguishes the Water Liars from so many of the bands that fall into the category of Americana or Alt-Country category.

Wyoming has the overall feel of having wandered into a late night dive somewhere in middle America that time forgot in which the band seizes your attention with its resonance and aching truth holding you rapt until dawn. While it pricks you in your core, you are glad to have felt something real.