There is a lot of love for Lambchop across the musical board and it’s easy to see why. For over two decades the band has been continuingly curating an unpretentious patchwork of emotionally deep and spectacularly beautiful music. In that time, Kurt Wagner (the creative mind behind the collective) has produced twelve studio albums, some that are utterly exquisite works and testifies the band’s ever-ehanging line-up. Each Lambchop album seems to take an effortless stride into another genre, not drastically, but each time gaining a subtle growth in the evolution of their “alternative country” sound where they first began in 1986.

With four years separating FLOTUS from the previous album Mr. M, Wagner has had more time than he has ever had to mull over which direction Lambchop’s sound would take, and throughout you see this genre hop more so than ever. However, the album starts off in a place not to dissimilar to what we might have heard already from Lambchop with ‘In Care of 8675309’ – the 11-minute epic gives a nod to the loose country stylings that have become a staple in any Lambchop record, yet the use of the arresting vocoder on Wagner’s vocals gives a hint as to what is to come. Wagner, who is 57, decided to take a new approach when writing FLOTUS, learning how to use Ableton Live and studying recent albums by hip-hop’s newest alumni. This is all very apparent in the second track ‘Directions to The Can’ possessing the jazz experimentalism of Kendrick Lemar and the nonsensical auto-tune of Kanye West in a glitch hip-hop beat.

The electronic bibs and drum sounds that opens ‘Old Masters’ gives life to what was previously alluded to in the album’s beginning – new futuristic ideas full of modern influences. This glorious piece reintroduces us to the lounge music sound that championed the seminal 2002 album, Nixon. A lulled bluesy bassline, distant mumbling vocoder vocals and the track’s hazy afternoon beat make the song hit an almost trip-hop level of calm. The following track ‘Relatives #2’ is the album’s beauty spot, the ever evolving song continues the mellow vibe that came before, featuring luscious piano sounds and Wagner’s painstakingly wistful vocal – it’s drossy but sophisticated, sedated yet unrelentingly beautiful. However, FLOTUS’s pinnacle has to be the closing 18-minute masterpiece, ‘The Hustle’. This unhurried track gently modulates to the emotional rhythm it creates, changing shape from rippling tranquilities to intense climaxes. Hearing Wagner’s clean voice at this stage of the album has a rather profound effect too, giving the track an even more sensitive sentiment. With its undulating choppy beat, no doubt inspired by Wagner’s fresh love for Ableton Live, as well as the conversational instrumentation of soft piano and clarinet sounds, very much a past characteristic, the album’s swan song is a real musical treat and perfectly sums up Lambchop from old and new.

FLOTUS, which stands for, For Love Often Turns Us Still, is a quiet album that is almost whispered. It rarely forces itself onto you but effortlessly manages to hold your attention throughout. You become awash with the “new” Lambchop sound as it slowly unravels with pensive meanings and delicate subtleties, leaving you refreshed and astounded as you come out the other side of the hour and eight-minute long musical passage. Having taken a comparatively blind step into the unknown with such a change in musical attack, Kurt Wagner’s Lambchop has incredibly created an exceptional album that’s airy groove is one we want to hear much more of.
Iain Lauder