Andrew Chicken’s catalog provides ample proof of a uniquely cerebral fashion of songwriting: His formidable discography spans clever Americana, refined revivals of scorching jazz, a collection of geographically -inspired data, and a bunch of Armchair Apocrypha, as he put it on the 2007 album that lastly earned him a cult viewers after a decade of regular work each on his personal and together with his group Bowl of Hearth. Chicken’s profile continued to rise within the decade after Armchair Apocrypha, to the purpose that he snagged a starring function on the fourth season of FX’s Fargo in 2020 and snared a Grammy nomination for My Most interesting Work But that very same yr.
Inside Issues performs like a retort to My Most interesting Work But, Chicken’s final solo album. The place Chicken addressed social upheaval on the 2019 file—a standard development amongst beforehand apolitical musicians through the Trump administration—Inside Issues is fully involved with issues of the thoughts and coronary heart. It could chronicle an inside journey, however Inside Issues doesn’t sound insular, even when it wears its intimacy with satisfaction. Working with a small group of musicians and that includes producer Mike Viola—a returning collaborator who helmed These 13, Chicken’s 2021 duet album with Jimbo Mathus—on guitar, Alan Hampton on bass, and drummer Abe Rounds, Chicken steers away from the folkier components of his fashion, discovering a beforehand uncharted territory nearer to indie pop than Americana. The quartet performs with a distinctly relaxed contact, creating a comfy, inviting environment.
However “cozy” would possibly indicate that Chicken is mining acquainted territory on Inside Issues, which isn’t fairly true. He nonetheless depends on his customary methods: He wields his violin and infrequently contributes a spectral whistle that dances alongside the margins, because it does on “Fastened Positions,” and he invitations Jimbo Mathus to present “Faithless Ghost” a little bit of revival spirit. Regardless of these accents, Inside Issues feels strikingly urbane, a well-tailored file whose coronary heart and thoughts reside within the trendy world, fairly than some imagined Americana previous. There are repeated allusions to creator Joan Didion—there’s a direct nod on the sprightly “Lone Didion,” whereas “Atomized” spins off of her 1968 essay assortment Slouching In direction of Bethlehem—and Lou Reed’s ghost looms over portion of the file, surfacing on “The Evening Earlier than Your Birthday,” a muffled thump of a rocker the place Chicken adopts Reed’s patented sneer. “Cease n’ Store” occupies the identical studiously primitive territory as “The Evening Earlier than Your Birthday,” however the outcomes are nearer to the cheerful naivete of Jonathan Richman. (It’s tempting to marvel if the track’s title is perhaps a tip of the hat to Richman’s personal “Roadrunner,” which immortalized the grocery store chain in its lyrics.)