Water Liars' third full length album is a powerful, confident thesis on the band. It balances country, punk, love, loss and southern identity brilliantly. It is appropriately self titled.
The band’s wide range is on display on Water Liars. The heavy opening lick introduces the band with authority before they make their way to wandering folk (“Swananoa”), a punky variation on 50s rock (“Ray Charles Dream”), and more.
The songs leave enough space to let the resonance settle into small nooks. Lead singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster’s vocals and his duets with drummer Andrew Bryant are the main attractions. On “War Paint” they have the perfect combination of drawl, defiance, and weariness. A line in “I Want Blood” captures the feeling: “Always drifting into battle with a sigh upon my lips.”
The music on Water Liars is elevated by Kinkel-Schuster’s lyrics. These songs are filled with vivid imagery that bring the listener into his world.
“I woke up in Houston in somebody’s kitchen. The ceiling was sweating and I was afloat on a dirty brown river of heroine shivers waiting on someone to send me a boat,” he sings on “Swananoa.”
Kinkel-Schuster sings about encountering his fears and trying to push past them. Some of his attempts feel like a young man daring life to try him — see “cause I want to see just how it is when you play the red but the black wins” on “War Paint” — but other times feel like epiphany.
“I looked death in the face and it was only my father. If I’d known all along, I wouldn’t have bothered with being afraid, with being a coward and trying to fool some mysterious power,” he sings later on “Swananoa.”
Either way, it’s compelling, invigorating, and addicting. Water Liars is the first record of 2014 I can’t stop listening to.
Water Liars will play Kings Barcade with Hospital Smokers on February 21. Tickets are $7.