There was a period about two weeks ago where it seemed like just about every single work day began by playing this newest album from In The Country. There's something about it that's just right for the beginning of the day, as it's not too heavy, but it's engaging and dynamic enough to get a mind clicking on all cylinders. Not only that, but a playful and yet sometimes very dark sense of humor runs through it all, it's by no means downcast but with just enough sprinkles of cynicism to let you know you're not alone while putting in your time behind the punch clock.
An atypical piano trio, the young bunch of Norwegians are led by pianist Morten Qvenild, who also spends time as half of Susanna And The Magic Orchestra and moonlights in Shining. Mixing little bits of pop, folk, and blues into their sound, the group definitely doesn't stick to playing jazz standards, and the result is another engaging batch of music.
Opener "My Best Friend Is A Dancer" is a perfect personification of the track title, gracefully moving from light piano and bass interplay through several sections of odd time signatures and finally a more powerful finale without ever sounding like it's going to trip over its own toes. "Hello Walt" follows, and the four-minute song rolls like a well-honed pop track, with quiet sections giving way to gangbusters choruses, with Qvenild showing off some serious chops while the rhythm section gets on it behind him.
The darker sense of humor shines through brightly on "Everyone Live Their Life," another more pop/rock influenced track that incorporates some world weary vocals (including the bleak line 'Everyone's going to die / Everyone live their life') that weave perfectly into the track that gets downright lush as it fills out with loads of percussion, organs, and a chorus. On the killer "Torch - Fishing," the piano even takes a bit of a back seat as Marc Ribot joins in and lays down some fiery guitar work that seems right at home amongst the slew of versatile songs on the album.
Even more so than their debut This Was The Pace Of My Heartbeat, Losing Stones, Collecting Bones is a twisting and turning journey that isn't content to stay in one place, but isn't willfully wild or inaccessible either. You know the group isn't taking themselves too seriously when there's a track named "Kung Fu Boys" that morphs from late-nite bedroom lullaby into a luscious romp. For eleven songs and just under an hour, In The Country has created something that's great for mornings, but works at any other time as well.