Records roll around, the needle navigating on through grooves going places both unknown and unreal. Somewhere amidst these thirty-third turns there is a theoretical Texas, all tall buildings and flat lands of poetic expanse. Then there is an England bleak but burning in soft smolders of languorous longing. And in the fine white lines of Cass McCombs’ PREfection there is an address for a new New York.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the New York we’ve got. Believe me, I’m thankful for most everything it’s had to offer these past few years. But Cass moves beyond (or may be past) to a place of more subtly sophisticated charm. PREfection is a new New York record drawing on a range of old city standards. It’s the sound of a more literate and less snotty Strokes, a Lou Reed listening to The Smiths in his teens, or a stateside John Lennon letting loose his primal screams and moving back to melody. It is all-at-once calming, claustrophobic and completely captivating.

As if to escape the singer-songwriter stigma that’s stuck with him since his debut, Cass has made PREfection as dependent on sonics as songs. The record as a whole is awash in reverb and swelling sounds swooning to their own sweet swirling timbre. His wit is ever-present as ever proclaiming “all four horsemen are you” and “ping-ping goes the shovel” as he’s off to “bury Mary” but these lines are all but lost amongst the thumb-strumming bass and stutter-drumming propulsivity that speeds the record to an untimely end. The playing is relentless and impulsive, a perfect complement to Cass’ own irascible aesthetic. Such arrangements set in the foggy haze of the record's defining atmospherics place PREfection into an indeterminable era transcending both tradition and progression.

Still there persists Cass’ singular voice. As much as he may hide it in effects or affectation, his informally indelible sense melody instantaneously ingratiates almost every song. Channeling a host of misanthropes from Bowie to Morrissey, these humble hooks come through like transmissions from a future past spreading through a sea of cough syrup.

Atop the rainy-day backdrop of PREfection’s fuzzy frenetics these lines detail the sprawling cityscape of the new New York contained in this one record. It’s a place of dreamy desperation and imminently mutable beauty. That the record was recorded in Michigan or released on a label from Maryland doesn’t matter as much as where it takes you. While that destination may differ from listener to listener, I recommend at least a layover in this new city that it’s shown me. But be forewarned before you get there, its grace is of a state that once it’s seen you’ll find it hard to ever leave.

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