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Album of the Week: Amanda Shires, 'To the Sunset'

Amanda Shires, 'To the Sunset'
Amanda Shires, 'To the Sunset'Courtesy of artist
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by Mac Wilson

August 03, 2018

You may be familiar with Amanda Shires from her previous records, or from her collaborations with Jason Isbell (She plays fiddle in Isbell's band The 400 Unit, and has been married to him since 2013.) But her new solo album, 'To the Sunset', will thoroughly shake up whatever notions you *think* you might have about Shires' music. It's a record that casts her as a truly vibrant artist, in ways that transcend the trappings of what might constitute 'Americana' music.

The record closes with "Wasn't I Paying Attention," where the narrator opens with a few cryptic images of her friend John, before leading the listener into an ever-intensifying sense of dread about whether John is really borrowing the truck to go pay his bills. The song has such a pervasive menace, it could really only appear at the very end, with a sudden resolution that coincides with the album's own final moments.

It would be tough for an album to go anywhere from those final moments, so it makes sense that the rest of the album is a bit more relaxed. It's not that everything is necessarily easygoing - the doomsday tale "Break Out the Champagne" has a particular dark humor suited to our times - but there's also a tranquility in some of these portraits of familial bliss. The incredible "Leave It Alone" definitively answers the question of what it would sound like if TV on the Radio produced an Americana album: jittering keyboards and guitars mirror Shires' anxiety and excitement over being into someone so much, you can't keep your literal and figurative hands off them.

'To the Sunset' pleasantly subverts our expectations of Amanda Shires' music, and is a standout record for these dog days of summer.


Amanda Shires - Official Site