Some musicians have a knack of transporting us to dark and desperate places — the kind of places we try to avoid but never forget. Tom Waits is one, his songs bring out the sinister in all of us. Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse is another, with his gently unsettling ballads and spooky sonic experiments. Add to that list Andy Wagner.
On his latest album, Silos and Smokestacks, Wagner shuffles through damaged Americana and eerie, off-kilter folk with the haunting hopelessness of an out-of-work ghost. Supported by the lost highway production of Joshua Eustis, Wagnerʼs slow-picked guitar and seen-too-much voice lead you down dark alleyways and dead-end streets while unexpected instruments and electronics blink at you like cartoon eyes in the pitch-black. From the crawling canyon howl of “The Shadows” to the wailing campfire incantation, “Living on the Outside,” Wagner explores the nooks and crannies of solitude, sorrow, and hard daysʼ nights.
But itʼs not as depressing as it sounds. With a backdrop of rumbling guitars, snaking pedal steel, harmonica and synths, Wagner shouts optimistically and anthemically on the title track, “Somewhere between the silos and smokestacks / Is where I hope to rest my soul someday.”
Somewhere. Someday. Those are the key words.