Release Date: May 21, 2021
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
Kurt Wagner has always been a productive musician, never going more than a few years without sharing a new set of songs, but recent times have felt especially fruitful for the Lambchop frontman. The 2019 release of This (Is What I Wanted To Tell You) felt like a significant moment, arguably the most experimental moment in the Lambchop discography as it reoriented the band's sound towards something that incorporated more in the way of electronic sounds and heavily processed vocals. The end of last year saw the arrival of the more familiar, low-key sounds of TRIP, an EP of covers of tracks by the likes of Wilco, Stevie Wonder and George Jones.
Somehow you get the sense early on that Showtunes may take us where Lambchop's Kurt Wagner has not gone before--and that is not many places, by the way. Whether it is the more classically inclined instrumentation that appears early on the album or something buried deep in the mix that gives the hint, Lambchop goes operatic on the closing track, "The Last Benedict." A very Wagnerian move, regardless of how you want to take that. In spite of the album's title, it is not a continuation of last year's TRIP covers album, but even if it is not a Lambchop hallmark, the title is far from nonsensical.
On Showtunes, Lambchop's 15th studio album, Kurt Wagner whiles away an afternoon contemplating an old standard. "I'm listening to that 'Old Devil Moon' and the day outside is slowly flying by me," he sings on "Blue Leo," his voice subtly distorted over a shape-shifting beat. On another verse of the same song, he's at the supermarket picking out vegetables when he hears "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," right as the sprayers turn on.