Miranda Lambert

The Weight of These Wings

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Miranda Lambert came to stardom via reality TV, so living in public isn't unusual for her, yet suffering through a public divorce from Blake Shelton had to take its toll. Lambert, however, doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve on The Weight of These Wings, a sprawling double-disc album released in the wake of her separation from Shelton. She channels whatever sorrow she has into a moody, muddy production that has more in common with the impressionistic smears of Daniel Lanois than whatever sounds were emanating from Nashville in 2016. Even on its sunnier songs -- the slurring stumble of "Pink Sunglasses," the Southern shade on "We Can Be Friends" -- The Weight of These Wings seems to take place at dusk, its melodies and rhythms nestling into a comforting murk. Perhaps Lambert never explicitly writes about heartbreak, but she's got leaving on her mind -- she opens the record with "Runnin' Just in Case" and concludes with "I've Got Wheels," realizing along the way that she's a "Highway Vagabond" while throwing in a cover of Danny O'Keefe's "Covered Wagon" for good measure -- and admits there are "Things That Break." All these songs suggest some uncertainty lurking in Lambert's heart, but The Weight of These Wings is a work of extreme confidence. If the two discs don't appear to adhere to their specific subtitles (disc one is called "The Nerve," the second "The Heart"), all 24 songs derive from the same viewpoint, which isn't markedly changed from 2014's Platinum. Maybe the swagger is tempered a bit, but Lambert still blends ballads with pop, old-time country, sly stories, and a bit of rebellious rock. By radically shifting her sound, she winds up focusing attention on her songwriting and musicality: it may have mainstream songs, but The Weight of These Wings isn't produced like a country-pop album, so it demands attention and rewards close listening. It is by no means tight, but its excess is also its asset because immersion reveals different pleasures with every spin.

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