When: Mon., Aug. 19, 8 p.m. 2013
On his website Richard Buckner does a little explaining to help fans parse the lyrics for his superb forthcoming album, Surrounded (due from Merge on September 3). “Literates can read the album in one, five or nine ways,” he writes. “There are nine songs with extra thoughts and joiners left in as grouting.” The “extra thoughts and joiners” are words, titles, and phrases he doesn’t actually sing, but which he includes on the lyric sheet to link the ones he does—they seem intended to hang together as a kind of short story with a discernible plot. As is often the case with Buckner, the deeply personal lyrics sound poetic but don’t always make their meaning clear, and the “grouting” doesn’t really help either. But I’ve never minded less—there are enough haunting, stinging lines that your imagination can fill in the blanks between them. The emotional heft and stark beauty in Buckner’s streamlined singing, sorrowful melodies, and sparse instrumental work (he played guitars, keyboards, and percussion, and resourceful Portland producer Tucker Martine reassembled and polished the tracks) are such that he could sing gibberish and make it work. I’ve long admired Buckner’s willingness to take chances with his songs, and since his 2011 album Our Blood he’s demonstrated the kind of editing skills that make his experiments concise and effective. —Peter Margasak Spencer Walters opens.