I don’t know if I’ve ever had my love for a band be so much focused on one particular song. That song, in the case of Water Liars, is their song “Linens.” From the intricate writing to the overall sound, it’s a fantastic song-of-the-year contender. The rest of the album shows the variety of sounds of the band, but I am going to stand my ground saying they are at their best on “Linens.”
Start this one at the 1:28 mark:
I’ll hit on a few of the key songs from the album. The opener “Sucker” is a basic rock and roll song, highlighting the duet harmonies of the two singers in Water Liars. The melody is a bit repetitive, but it accomplishes the main goal of the song.
The third track on the album, “Linens” was fantastically performed in the Room125 session, which is how I found the band in the first place. It has a sort of traditional country and rock storytelling melody to it. What really makes it work are the harmonies. It sounds like something off of the 1970s Eagles albums. It’s a simple story about young love and fresh linens. This track is beautiful in all of the ways we love iconic rock songs to be. The lyrics even make a direct quote of Milton’s commentary on heaven and hell. How’s that for unexpected? Vocal blending and philosophical lyrics… awesome.
“Cut a Line” has some really bizarre sonic constructs in it, but has an interesting sound overall. It is far from the gospel-infused sounds of some of the other music on the album. It seems to be both cutting edge and astonishingly familiar as well. The high notes on the bridge help to make the song’s characteristic sound. I think the tense uncertainty that feeds into a cacophonous element of the song is intentional. This isn’t meant to be a toe tapper.
“How Will I Call You” is a much more traditional song and highlights the best of Water Liars. The subject matter is a bit easier to follow and more palatable. It’s an endearing love song. The lyrics go over several different terms of endearment for a girl that the lead singer loves. If you’re putting together a soft and sweet love song playlist this should be on it.
The title track “Wyoming” further develops the electric guitar sound that was present on some of the other songs. This track is almost more of a 90s alternative song than the more traditional stuff on the album. It seems that this duo is figuring out the sound that they most like to perform. While this song has structural qualities not unlike the others on the album, especially in terms of melody line, it has a fundamentally different sound even in how the lead singer performs the track. It’s almost a different band the way they play this one.
The guitar on “You Work Days, I Work Nights” is nostalgic, touching, and perfect for the track. This song, for whatever reason, reminds me of a single wide trailer in about 1975… and a half case of Shlitz beer. I picture fumanchus and a different kind of America. “Don’t forget me…” leads into an intimate verse, followed by the mirroring “Don’t forget you…” about work. This is a story of love amidst hard work. It’s a raw and honest song, something that really characterizes Water Liars through and through.
“Bird of Song” begins with a solo piano and transcendent vocals. The lyrics tell a story about a bird desiring escape and freedom who “can only love you in songs.” It’s a proto ballad that fuses together elements of standard love ballads with a desperate melancholy. The band is preserving this intentionally soft and subtle affect with this one.
All told, Water Liars put together an intriguing album. They are far from the darlings of the pop music world. Instead, they smack of the kind of musicians that don’t really care who hears them. They play and make the music that they feel. That’s precisely what makes them so good. Calling “Linens” a hit is probably a welcome compliment, but does not define the band any more than critiques of some of the other songs. These are two musicians that write and perform for themselves. That comes across clearly from first to last. Keep your eye out for mention of “Linens” in my end of the year song list. Until then, enjoy Wyoming for yourself.