Mark Mulcahy: The Gus
The Gus is Mark Mulcahy’s sixth solo album, following up his 2017 effort The Possum in the Driveway, and it’s clear that the musician hasn’t run out of things to say. The songs here were apparently inspired by the short stories of author George Saunders—and from the first lines of opening track “Wicked World” there’s a sense that these tracks are immersive, world-building mini narratives. Mulcahy, best known as the former frontman of Miracle Legion, is joined by Rain Phoenix on “Wicked World,” but most of the album is his own voice, told in true singersongwriter form. One of the most memorable stories comes in the form of “Mr. Bell,” which imagines the life of a Trump supporter. In the hushed, folktinged number, Mulcahy croons, “They don’t just talk about you/ They’re proud of you.” If you don’t know the direction of the lyrics, then it could just be any song, but Mulcahy manages to reflect on new aspects of current politics without hitting anyone over the head. “A Long Time Ago,” a sparsely wrought acoustic number, is another standout, placing the singer’s (impressive) voice and words front and center in a way that is slightly disconcerting. Often, these tracks are uncomfortably intimate, much like when you read something that hits too close to home or doesn’t quite unfold the way you expect it to. But that’s a good thing. Not all music has to be constantly pleasing, and this album requires some thought on the part of the listener. And if you engage, then you’ll be rewarded.