by: Brooks Kendall
In the five years since his last studio album, Collin Herring has outgrown his title as “the torchbearer for alt-country.” Electric, psychedelic and dark, Herring’s fifth studio album Some Knives will vaporize any mandolin or banjo it comes across. Herring’s conversational-to-cryptic style of songwriting falls like another layer of percussion on this texture heavy Matt Pence production. The moody tone of Some Knives comes with synth bass lines, inventive drumming, and sci-fi pedal steel pads.
The lead off track, “Psychopaths” builds a bird’s nest with wiry guitar lines and spaced out steel parts interweaving like grass, twigs, mud, saliva and whatever else the architect could find. Herring is shaky but confident as he tells us “Psychopaths like me don’t shiver.” The title track, “Some Knives,” is a throbbing wall of eighth notes, poetry and naive synthesizers, appropriately headed to a place it never arrives at musically. The watery guitar melodies on “One Last Twice” and the high-register vocal on the chorus of “Higher Ground” bring to mind Joy Division or older New Order records. Not forsaking his past, Herring conjures alt-country ghosts in the big sky steel leads on “Covered Up,” the accessible themes on “Come Home,” and the ironically uptempo lament of a musician entering maturity, “Hard to Hear.”
Some Knives is a beautiful tangle of new textures, angular drum parts, and a lyrical style that goes from candid to mysterious with a word. Collin Herring reminds how his creativity, subtlety, and gravity affect the undertow that is pulling alternative roots music to more interesting places.
Listen to “Kicked Around” below.
The author: Brooks Kendall is the bassist for Denton’s Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward and our most recent contributing columnist.