“I’m throwing out the old regrets and crawling after glory,” sings vocalist-guitarist Justin Kinkel-Schuster resolutely on the stirring opening track “Sucker.” It’s one of 11 bittersweet, poignant songs off of Water Liars’ sophomore album, Wyoming. Following up their 2012 debut, Phantom Limb, Kinkel-Schuster and drummer-vocalist Andrew Bryant recall time spent in between places, of love and of love lost.
Recorded in Mississippi, the band utilizes a stripped-down arrangement that allows the entire album to undulate with palpable heartache and hints of rapture. It has a sense of loneliness and sadness to it, especially on the ’50s-vintage ballads “Cut A Line” and “You Work Days I Work Nights.” Then, moments of searing bliss sweep in with the more blazing and upbeat “Linens.” Full of pensive submission and beautiful dual harmonies, it tugs on your emotions as though you’re driving down a highway as patchwork hills roll by. It’s the sort of nostalgic release that has you constantly reaching for the tissues.
The duo’s narrative style is both dark and terrifically honest, such as on the slow-paced “Fake Heat” and “Backbone.” On the first, Kinkel-Schuster sings about shacking up with a dog-owning woman and “waiting for the bite upon [his] backside,” and on the latter, he asks, “Did I leave my brother in the thick of it?” Kinkel-Schuster’s high-arching vocals, yearning harmonies and melodic arpeggios draw from the same well as Band Of Horses, the Shins and Grizzly Bear, where quiet folk-meets-country blues and electric guitars are enmeshed with moments of cacophony and atmospheric instrumentation.
Full of memories and unanswered questions, Wyoming asserts a sense of limitless depth, as the duo’s members seem to have developed a greater understanding of one another than on their debut. It’s nothing short of a luscious story, a constant oscillation between naked space and symbiosis.