Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

McCarthy Trenching: Perfect Game [self-released, 2020]
Alerted by Phoebe Bridgers's cover of this "band"'s "Christmas Song," I spent a fine little Spotify morning checking out all 57 of Dan McCarthy's entries. These date back to 2007 with the band part mostly theoretical--guitar strummer McCarthy doubles on the piano that dominates here and has hooked up with a bassist who I presume inflected the horn arrangements that add welcome color to his latest and most impressive tunes--most of which, to be clear, truly are tunes. McCarthy sings clear, mild, droll, calculated, casual and writes clever and inventive without ever overwhelming his offhand affect--the many laugh lines are more chuckle lines. "Why Don't I See You Anymore" devotes single lines and whole stanzas to 16 reasons before "Phaethon" modernizes Greek mythology. "Red Maple" and "Russian Olive" chronicle dead trees. "I Didn't Come to Town to Get a Haircut" is something his uncle used to say only by the time Dan finally gets around to it the town doesn't even have a barber. And that's only the half of it. A-