BEST OF 2016

MAGNET’s #13 Album Of 2016: Cass McCombs’ “Mangy Love”


Mangy Love is a slippery album, by turns didactic and Dada-esque, sensitive and pissed-off, somber and humorous. Cass McCombs has made a career of being unpredictable, with collections of acoustic folk rock, churning psychedelia, twangy alt-country and lo-fi home recordings. While it seems like he may just be casually following his muse, his albums are thoughtful and full of subtle, lasting riches. And Mangy Love is his best yet, a meditation on gender politics, love and healing that’s full of unexpected twists, word games and inside jokes. “It is not wealth to have more than others/It is not peace when others are in pain,” he sings, sounding like a Marxist preacher. He plays a mopey pessimist (“Mine is an opposite house, rain on the inside when it’s sunny out”) and a persuasive optimist (“Laughter is the best medicine”; perhaps a mantra for the album). The music is also slippery. Although anchored in an easygoing groove—McCombs grew up in Grateful Dead-centric Northern California—songs can include a reggae interlude or can veer into Shuggie Otis-style psychedelic soul. It’s hard to get a bead on Mangy Love, and that’s its power and its joy.

—Steve Klinge