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Album Review: Shakey Graves – And the War Came

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Quirky one-man band Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose Garcia) made headlines throughout 2012 and 2013 in the Austin, Texas alt-country scene. His impressive act—complete with a hand-made suitcase kick drum and a slide guitar—made an impression with its angsty, bouncing, lo-fi Americana vibe.

He attracted waves of online attention with his 2012 single, “Late July,” an amateurish, finger-picked, soul-wrenching masterpiece. In his newly released sophomore LP, And the War Came, Shakey’s sound has certainly matured: He’s fined-tuned his restless spirit, but thankfully, without ever pulling on the reins.

Replete with the same foot-stomping madness and expert musicianship he introduced in his earlier work, the new album fits right into the lo-fi Americana, folk-blues niche that Garcia cozily inhabits. However, this time around, he doesn’t hesitate to experiment with some dissonant electronic sounds and a slightly heavier of a rock vibe. What sets him apart from other alt-country and freak folk artists is his shameless, affective omnipresence, which translates into a profound rawness on each song. It is like he has tapped into some kind of deep reservoir of human truth; his tracks can be dark, but never fail to resolve and uplift—it’s a delightful dance between hopeless angst and abundant joy.

This LP takes listeners through a deliberate narrative, absent from his early compilations. The opener amounts to seven seconds of spoken words: “This is the beginning. Hello. 1, 2, 3.” He then brings us through childhood in his second number, “Only Son,” and progresses through the stages of life with each subsequent track. Garcia also collaborates with Paper Bird’s Esmé Patterson for three duets on the album. Patterson’s velvety vocals contrast with his raspy whispers as they both showcase their far-reaching ranges in consummating harmonies.

Austin has bred a true gem in this calculated madman and there is no question he will continue to shake up the folk-rock scene for years to come.