Shakey Graves’ voice is like butter being spread on toast: a smooth substance moving along a rough surface until the two become inseparable.
The Texan singer and multi-instrumentalist, born Alejandro Rose-Garcia, opens And the War Came with ‘Only Son’, a track that is at times mournful and contemplative, at times experimental, and at times breaking into a country-folky-foot-stomping explosion of possibilities: a good indication of what you’re getting yourself into.
And the War Came is full of the rustic, finger-picking excellence that we heard on 2011’s Roll the Bones, but comes with growth, development, and collaboration, specifically with Esme Patterson, the vocalist who helped make ‘Dearly Departed’ this album’s hit.
There’s feeling in Graves’ voice, but it’s feeling that has been diluted with whiskey and cocaine underneath a backwoods sunset. “The truth always hurts,” he wails in ‘Hard Wired’, “we were hard wired”. Other tunes, like ‘Big Time Nashville Star’, are more raw, stripped down outbursts of a rugged-genius-one-man-band gone wild. Esme’s voice mirrors the mood, and together they create the musical equivalent of grabbing someone and kissing them behind a barn, slurring your words, and falling together into the grass, a full moon beaming down onto your soul.
On ‘The Perfect Parts’, Shakey Graves takes a Modest Mouse influence and runs with it, creating something utterly his own. ‘Family and Genus’ is another new sound, and he pulls it off well, combining electronic elements and crackly voice recordings with just enough familiarity and intimacy to make the listener feel right at home.
The record closes out with ‘Call it Heaven’, an unpolished reminder of who this guy really is: an individual; a wild, incomparable animal.
In a world full of albums that are trying too hard either to be perfect or to be unique, Shakey Graves has managed to create something that sounds effortlessly imperfect. Simple, heartfelt, and soothingly raw.