MINUS 5, Killingsworth (Yep Roc)
What makes the music of Minus 5 leader Scott McCaughey work is the juxtaposition of comfortably familiar musical forms – granted, quite a lot of them, often mashed together – with a strikingly off-the-wall and original lyrical perspective. He was raised on the ’60s classics and has never really left there, whether it’s garage-stomp or classic pop or strummy folk or dreamy country-rock, or other sounds that anyone from, say, the Kinks to Doug Sahm to Rockpile to the Mekons may have appropriated over the decades. Given McCaughey’s recent relocation from Seattle to Portland, it’s no surprise to find the Decemberists turning up on a few tracks here – Colin Meloy even takes the lead vocal on “Scott Walker’s Fault” (which, yes, lives up to its reverential title reference). But a more indelible mark is made by a couple of vocal contributors: relative newcomers the Shee Bee Gees, whose group-harmonies suffuse most of the songs with a old-school pop charm; and late-’90s should-have-been-a-contender Little Sue, whose presence leaps forth on a few tracks, most notably “The Long Hall”, a near-perfect country-rock number. Other high points: “Big Beat Up Moon”, co-written by Richmond Fontaine veteran Willy Vlautin and painting a starkly desolate portrait of big-city apartment-living (“How can there be so many people/Stacked up in rooms/And still feel all alone?”); “The Lurking Barrister”, buoyed beautifully by the Shee Bee Gees’ shimmering chants; and the straightforward finale, “Tonight You’re Buying Me A Drink, Bub”, in which McCaughey declares flatly, to his own church-anthem-ish piano accompaniment: “Here’s the long and short of it: I need a little more of it.” Amen to that.