November 20th, 2018 | Album reviews

Delicate Art

In-demand sidemen are usually in-demand sidemen for a reason. Their particular set of skills add a distinctive element to a well-known act’s sound, or their multi-instrumental aptitude powers a musical versatility that comes in handy on the road. Walt McClements brings both to the table, which is why he’s been plenty busy the past several years touring in bands like Weyes Blood (interviewed here), Hurray for the Riff Raff and Dark Dark Dark. When he’s not playing other folks’ songs, however, McClements makes his own music under the name Lonesome Leash, and his latest album Delicate Art is proof that he’s more than just a sideman. Here, McClements draws on his vast skill set to assemble a bunch of ambitious and compelling pop songs that add up to even more than the sum of their considerable parts. “Driving” is built on an unwavering beat and a killer repeated accordion riff that evokes the melodies of African music. An elegant ‘80s vibe rises from the maximalist arrangement of “Ghosts in the Garden.” Horns and stringed things flesh out the floaty title track, while the piano-centric “Gallery Floor” could pass for a Mountain Goats (interviewed here) song—at least until it blooms into a massive and gorgeous chorus that sounds more like a choir of angels than indie rock. The highest point of Delicate Art is the album’s penultimate track, “Night Was Long,” which brings together McClements’ instrumental prowess, his unique melodic sense and his flair for the dramatic into one irresistible tune. When a song has its own sense of forward momentum and it feels like a surprise awaits around every corner, you know you’ve got something good. On Delicate Art, Walt McClements shows what can happen when the sideman gets a chance to shine.

—Ben Salmon