Many of the attributes that numerous alternative listeners have found endearing or annoying about Lambchop remain on this, the band's sixth album. There's the fragmented, sometimes mundane subject matter of Kurt Wagner's lyrics, his dry sing-speak voice, and an overall air of resignation that blurs the line between contentment and containment. Is a Woman has to rank as one of the group's better efforts, though, primarily since the coyness that could lead to aggravating pretensions has been muted, almost to the point of absence. It's also fair to say that, at this point, Lambchop was no longer an alt-country act. Perhaps there's still a touch of countrypolitan to the subdued songs and languorous tempos. But the effect is rather more like that of an arty lounge singer, with the deft piano, rich vibes, and occasional science fiction-like guitar effects. Wagner sounds something like an alternate-universe Randy Newman, not nearly as concise or direct in his imagery, but possessed of similar weary, reflective Americana. By focusing less on quotidian (i.e., boring) experiences of the proletariat and more on less-tangible allusions to death, troubled romance, and loneliness, Wagner's music is simply more approachable and meaningful, if still hard to puzzle out in its specific intent. Too, the sound is much more consistent from cut to cut than it has been on past Lambchop albums, with enough inventive tinges of soul and jazz to leaven the super-somber after-hours ethos. This is still way too idiosyncratic for mass digestion, but it's a definite positive artistic progression.
Is a Woman Review
by Richie Unterberger