Water Liars

We get a lot of records sent to us here at The A.V. Club, and a lot of it’s too good to ignore. In Playlisted, we spotlight new music that’s slightly off the beaten path.

Album: Phantom Limb by Water Liars (out now on Misra)

Press play if you like: Great Lake Swimmers; the early, non-arena-ready Black Keys; rusty backyard sheds; all-you-can-eat catfish; the chirp of crickets at 2 a.m. amid the gathering dew.

Some background: St. Louis singer-songwriter Justin Kinkel-Schuster of the mopey art-country band Theodore spent three days in rural Mississippi recording Phantom Limb with fellow traveler Andrew Bryant, both of them harmonizing around a single microphone to songs played mostly with a stripped-down guitar-and-drum configuration. Only 10 songs long—one of which is just a fragment, and two of which are combined into something like a medley, connected by audio of an old Aleister Crowley poem—Phantom Limb has the offhanded feel that Kinkel-Schuster and Bryant clearly wanted, sounding simultaneously haphazard and unexpectedly lovely. Some songs buzz and reverberate, like a DIY version of Crazy Horse; others are solemn and wispy, like a hymn echoing through the walls of an old country church. The album’s tone ranges from a pounding anthem about how “they got you by the short hair” to a chilling first-person ballad about how death will bring a dark reckoning to a habitual liar. This is the full extent of Water Liars’ approach: eccentric, personal, and occasionally even profound.

Try this: Phantom Limb’s opening track, “$100,” starts with bleeding distortion and sludgy heavy-metal chords, then gives way to a short, springy, Bruce Springsteen-esque country-rocker, then lurches back into the murk. The song exemplifies Water Liars’ eagerness to surprise listeners, as well as the duo’s ability to handle the hard and the soft with equal aplomb.