Review: A Grave With No Name - "Feathers Wet..."

A Grave With No Name - Feathers Wet, Under The Moon
(2015 Lefse)

I've taken great care to use the term "masterpiece" sparingly. With the overwhelming abundance of music available to me thanks to Spotify and Bandcamp, it can be easy to forget what it really means to be fixated on one particular album, for a band or artist to pull my attention away from all else for the duration of an LP. About once or twice a year, a record will catch me by surprise and remind me what greatness truly means. Over the past week, A Grave with No Name's newest release, titled Feathers Wet, Under the Moon has done just that. It's a captivating listen from start to finish, bringing together the defining elements of each installment in his original trilogy of albums: Mountain Debris' expressionist emphasis on texture, the eerie atmosphere that haunted Lower, and the slick-yet-distorted production on Whirlpool. Adding a substantial dose of dreamy twang that recalls Red House Painters or even Euro-folk acts like Hank Dogs and The Cranberries, Alexander Shields has made the AGWNN album that I've always dreamed of. Hearkening back to Smashing Pumpkins B-Sides like "Said Sadly" and "Blew Away", he coats his fragile, shoegazey lullabies with lush string arrangements that are, at times, tinged with the lovable kitsch of early-80s pop country, especially so on "Waltz", which features some beautifully crunchy lead guitar courtesy of former Yuck frontman Daniel Blumberg. Though sparse, droney tracks like "Your Ghost, By the Lake" and "I Will Ride a Horse" are wonderfully cozy and jarringly powerful, Feathers Wet... shines brightest when it cranks up the distortion, like the intro to "Orion", packed with proto-grunge riffage that takes cues from Dinosaur Jr, circa Without A Sound. Fine-tuning all the elements that have made AGWNN's work great, I can safely say that Alex Shields has created a masterpiece that showcases his talent for creating hazy, ethereal atmospheres that span numerous genres.