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Pistol Annies drink and toke their way through familial dysfunction

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

Pistol Annies songs often sound like slightly more unruly versions of Miranda Lambert songs; this makes sense considering Lambert makes up the most recognizable (by far) third of the country trio, which also includes Nashville singer-songwriters Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. But where Lambert’s country-badass persona often turns on a scorned-woman narrative or a slight sentimental streak, Pistol Annies songs, unbeholden to the expectations applied to Lambert’s hit-laden solo career, tend to be more unapologetically misanthropic. Their songs are just as acerbically sweet and heavily produced—and frequently hilarious—as Lambert’s, but there’s a bit more bite lurking behind the sassy winks and girl-power proclamations, which tend to be window dressing for songs that take a lighter view of would-be heavy topics like addiction, poverty, infidelity (of the male and female variety), and family strife.

That last one provided the foundation to “Family Feud,” the final track on the Annies’ very good 2011 debut, Hell On Heels, and the trio picks the theme back up for the first single off its upcoming follow-up, Annie Up. “Hush Hush” should resonate with anyone who’s ever rictus-grinned their way through a horrible family holiday gathering, biting their tongue as their hyper-conservative uncle rants about how the gays are coming to ruin everyone’s marriage. The song eagerly engages with societal and religious hypocrisy, toasting “cheers to the vodka mama’s been sneaking” and advising “Put on your Sunday best / Pretend you’re not a mess / Be the happy family in the front pew.” But the best advice comes in Monroe’s verse, the third, where she sneaks out behind the barn for a toke, figuring “If everybody here hates everybody here, I might as well be the joke.” It’s a refreshingly lighthearted, self-aware take on a bad situation—which pretty much sums up most Pistol Annies songs.