Songs for the Weary (self-released)

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On its debut album, Theodore mines the darker territories of Americana by using a handful of country signifiers (lap-steel, slide guitar) and a smidgen of pop set-dressing (glockenspiel, accordion). The bulk of the ten tracks on Songs for the Weary have the pulse of a slow heartbeat, an acoustic frame supporting these folk dirges and story-songs. Justin Kinkel-Schuster leads the quartet with his sweetly broken voice, one that shows its scars while refusing to lie down. He brings it from a whisper to a scream on Everyman, cutting through the reverb and feedback with fierceness. Home, Tonight, I Go recalls the hushed, loping style of the Great Lake Swimmers, though a closer analogue would be another Misra Records band, the fractured country-pop band Phosphorescent. The album-opening "Back from the War" finds Kinkel-Schuster unaccompanied as he tells a tale of love gone wrong during wartime. The spare, desperate song is peppered with enough purposefully vague details so that the scene could be set in 1944 or 1969 or 2007. Battles, both at home and abroad, are eternal, after all. It's an ethos that works for Theodore — the band makes no claim to any set tradition (though it occasionally veers toward old-timey revivalism). Like the songs of Will Oldham and Jason Molina, there is a melding of antiquated and modern styles, and the songs that result tell stories and set moods with minimal accoutrements.

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