Trying to plumb the injustice of Richard Buckner’s obscurity is pretty fruitless; after all, that’s just more time that could be spent listening to his music. Across nine full-length albums, the singer-songwriter has built a body of work that’s often dismissed as alt-country—one that manages to steer clear of cornpone and steep itself in the kind of mood and texture Mark Eitzel made famous. It’s been five years since Buckner’s last full-length, the raggedly glorious, typically overlooked Meadow. His latest, Our Blood, isn’t likely to raise his profile much. But that’s okay. Buckner has other things on his mind.
Our Blood’s opener, “Traitor,” kicks off with a smudge of strangled electronics before morphing into hushed acoustic pop flush with lap steel and organ. Tonally, it’s closer to the austerity and borderline experimentalism of his late-’90s work, particularly Devotion + Doubt and Since. It’s also a marked departure from Meadow’s raw volume, and whispery sketches like the disjointed, disintegrating “Ponder” only widen the gulf. But the song that best embodies Our Blood is “Collusion.” “Coming up for air / from the hollow prayer,” sings Buckner under his breath as the tension between plucked strings and eerie synthesizer sucks the oxygen out of the tune. As with Buckner’s best work, though, what remains isn’t quite a vacuum; rather, it’s an afterimage, blurred and ghostly.