cameron mcgill & what army — is a beast

cameron mcgill & what army @ local 506

Cameron McGill & What Army — Is A Beast. Out 4/12.

When I dropped a short preview of this album in my February Two Sentences reviews, I said that it was dark and lush, and the more I listen to it, the more I stand by those two words to describe it. Cameron’s vocals are, in many cases, as much an instrument, not quite human and achingly sad, as the rest of the band backing him, and as album opener “Houdini” swells and crashes to its conclusion, it is obvious that this isn’t your regular indie rock album.

It’s a dichotomous album, with songs like “I Don’t Believe In Magic (But All My Friends Have Disappeared)” sounding shiny and upbeat with horns and woo-woo choruses, three chord songs that wedge into your head and stick there, until you listen closely to the lyrics (I’ve got one for the money, two for the show, and three to get blown apart); the same shimmering sound backs “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Adverbs” and its heartbreaking line show me show me show me how to love or how to stay lonely. But it’s also laid all over with bluesy guitars and crashing percussion on other tracks, where the sound (“Dead Rose”) matches the eerie lyrics and Cameron’s otherworldly voice.

It’s not a flawless album — I find “Let’s Make Dinosaurs Extinct” vaguely baffling in the pacing of the record — but there’s a lot fascinating and clever writing on it, songs that really will stick in your head. Cameron told me in an interview last fall that most of the album was written in his girlfriend’s living room, which I find a little head-shaking, as it feels like an album written and recorded in the wake of a break-up, or a love affair falling apart. Is A Beast sounds like the mask of trying to be alright in the wake of ache and bruise, and perhaps it is, but I doubt it. It’s a sharp songwriter who can make an album this genuine about something he isn’t necessary feeling himself.

But don’t take my word for it; you can stream the album here, and you should.

Cameron & What Army headline the 506 on Sunday, April 17. 9:30, $8 tix.

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