thousands of free and legal carefully curated MP3's


Lambchop is without a doubt one of the weirder acts to come out of a city that has produced plenty, the one and only Nashville, Tennessee. Led by idiosyncratic vocalist/songwriter Kurt Wagner, the amorphous collective started as a mere septet, dubbed Posterchild before an unfriendly phone call from a lawyer for the band Poster Children prompted them to adopt their present tasty moniker. The group soon developed a unique and fairly unclassifiable sound, derived in large part from the chart-topping country-pop of their native city, but also from other producer-driven pop staples like Philly soul and NYC Brill Building pop, and not least of all from the idiosyncratic ethos of contemporary indie rock and singer-songwriter fare. Wagner's shuffling mock-croon and alternately droll and depressing stream-of-consciousness lyrical style added to the group's distinctive appeal. As the band's following increased, there was a seemingly corresponding increase in the size of the ensemble, so that by the time of their much-lauded 1996 album How I Quit Smoking, Lambchop claimed 14 members.

While parts of that album felt like an overt if somewhat twisted homage to the lush '70s "countrypolitan" stylings of Charlie Rich and George Jones, Lambchop would begin moving away from the Music City's trademark sound on subsequent releases. The next year's sprawling and eclectic Thriller fused country-pop with (among other things) brass-driven soul, and also featured three contributions from indie rock singer-songwriter FM Cornog, better known as East River Pipe. Wagner's new fascination with the Quiet Storm became even more apparent on the 1998 follow-up, What Another Man Spills, on which he covered Curtis Mayfield and Frederick Knight. The stylistic schizophrenia continued on the 2000 album Nixon, which Wagner, in typical sardonic fashion, claimed was inspired by the life of the 37th president, even including a Tricky Dick bibliography in its liner notes. Let's be completely clear, though -- for many the word "schizophrenia" might conjure to mind noisy, abrasive dissonance, but that's not what "schizophrenia" means in Lambchop's book. These songs, while unquestionably afflicted with some form of multiple personality disorder, are carefully considered and meticulously arranged; Wagner writes songs like Neil Sedaka coming down from a fierce acid trip during which he listened to a whole bunch of Conway Twitty and Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Again, smooth soul and vintage country-pop exert influence over the offbeat baroque style of Lambchop's sixth album, 2002's Is a Woman, but the feel here more than anything else is of a smoky piano bar. It's striking how stark the band's arrangements have become, especially considering the number of musicians who play on the record. It seems that Lambchop have essentially abandoned any element of parody or grotesquerie which attached to their earlier work, hewing out a unique spot as indie rock's preeminent intelligent lounge orchestra.