Water Liars – Wyoming album review

Wyoming is an interesting state. It is home to enormous mountains, national parks, and unending roads that oftentimes seem to stretch to the horizon in an unbroken line. It is also very sparsely settled, ranking as the second least populated in all of the 50 states. Several years ago on a road trip out west, Wyoming was the first place that I truly felt I had left behind the environment that was the east coast and really moved on to something new and unknown. Just as Wyoming was previously unfamiliar to me, so is the work of St. Louis Missouri’s Water Liars. The duo recently released their sophomore album, conveniently titled Wyoming (the reason for my introduction describing my trip out west), and I spent this past Tuesday evening absorbing its offerings with Guinness in one hand a notebook in the other.

When considering a rock and roll duo one often thinks of the Black Keys, The White Stripes, or The Kills. All three of these bands immediately invoke images of a stomping blues machine, spraying guitar feedback and howling miseries while taking cues directly from the traditional music that came before. However, Water Liars do not create sound that one would equate with a two-man band stereotype. They instead seem to cull their ideas from the alternative country templates provided by Wilco, and the pastoral strums of Fleet Foxes. It is an interesting mix, and as a fan of both of the previously mentioned bands, I immediately dug the initial tracks that Wyoming provided.

The album begins with “Sucker” and “Fake Heat,” two tracks that elicited interest from my ears, and excitement for the rest of the record. “Sucker” is a tried and true rock and roll song, with a distorted guitar line and easy-going drumbeat. It sounds like a tune that could certainly be played in a vehicle headed west. “Fake Heat” slows down the tempo, but is no less effective than the previous track. Its reverberating guitar and lyrics, sung by front man Justin Kunkel-Schuster, are perfectly accompanied by the gentle drumming and singing of second member Andrew Bryant. These guys know how to blend their voices together, and as I stated before, Fleet Foxes comparisons are easy to make while listening to Water Liars. It is an auspicious start to the album.

Unfortunately, the rest of the record is not nearly as enthralling as these first two contributions. With the exception of lead single, “Linens” and the beginning of “Backbone,” much of Wyoming is dedicated to down tempo songs that are oftentimes indistinguishable from one another. The title track passes slowly and quietly, and though the finale, entitled “Fire,” attempts a return to the peppier beats of the introductory pieces, it takes much too long to get to.

Wyoming is not a bad album by any means. Its sound is evocative and enticing. However, after the initial introductory rush of the first several songs wears off, it stumbles to a slightly stagnant finish. I would be interested in hearing more from Water Liars in the future, but their sophomore record left me wanting for something a little more upbeat.

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