Here’s to the rest of world having enough sense to realize that Greg Cartwright is a national musical treasure. Listening to the Reigning Sound (or Compulsive Gamblers or Oblivians, all with Greg), I feel this largeness: of scope, of humanity, of understanding of music being of infinite possibilities, but best when tastefully selected and exposed. It’s best when beaten upon rocks of experience; best when offered with humility and grace. Blood spilled. Wounds healed but not cosmetically hidden nor forgotten. At the core of Love and Curses is the songwriting. Both stripped down to acoustic skin and bones and fully dressed with the band ruffling and weaving expansive musical tapestries, this collection of songs tells an instantly relatable, but told poetically, arc of stories delivered without a Rolodex tongue of clichés. In some way, because it was before my time and adolescent punk rock views prohibited such behavior, for the first time in my life, I can understand how people on a large scale went apeshit for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. That part of you wants to live inside the songs, to be able to feel that sort of love and loss, that joy and sorrow, that immediacy that’s dripping from every note. In the context of the band’s output, this album is an expansion of both Home for Orphans and Too Much Guitar simultaneously. Don’t expect full-on cigarette-huffing sprints all the way through, or for the band to be sitting down into quiet grooves the entire set. But expect fireworks, both filling the sky and inside your head, from start to finish, and you’ll be humming: “This debris is all that’s left of me,” too. One of the best records of 2009, flat-out.
–todd (In The Red)