The Dust of Retreat
The Dust of Retreat is an impressive, eclectic debut from an eight-piece band that easily navigates the waters of folk rock, chamber pop and alt-country. Like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, singer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Edwards can tell compelling stories with just an acoustic guitar, but many of his songs, while simple in melody and structure, ascend to thrilling heights when backed by the right combination of instruments. “A sea chanty of sorts” shimmers with layers of cello, piano and ethereal female background vocals; “Vampires in blue dresses” is accented by meandering lap steel and bells; “Paper kitten nightmare” features a jazzy trumpet solo and several vocalists singing the word “meow” repeatedly during the catchy chorus.
Edwards’ voice sounds comfortingly familiar, but not generic, and his style of singing is emotive in a vague and sometimes disconcerting way that leaves you guessing as to which emotions he’s expressing. His lovely melodies are often offset by dark lyrics; “Skeleton key” opens with the lines “I did a sick, sick, thing to my love/My lack of loyalty swallowed her up,” which he sings with feeling, but not necessarily with regret. Almost every song brings something different to the album, and while it’s easy to make comparisons to other bands, the resemblances are mostly fleeting. Every time to you try to pin down their music as one thing or another, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s slither out from under your grip and deliver another welcome surprise.