Ten years into her career -- a decade spent playing support with everybody from Chris Isaak and Todd Snider to Justin Townes Earle and Jason Isbell -- Amanda Shires hit her stride with To the Sunset. Working with Dave Cobb, Shires expands the parameters of her music so they no longer strictly adhere to the definition of Americana. Make no mistake, her folk and country roots are evident on To the Sunset, not hidden. They can be heard on instrumental accents and, especially, Shires' song construction, which is so expert that the seams don't show. Upon this sturdy foundation, Shires gives her songs arrangements that defy simple genre classification. "Parking Lot Pirouette" offers something of a warning for To the Sunset's adventurousness, opening the album with a spacy waltz that seems to stretch out into the open sky. From there, Shires threads allusions to new wave, jangle pop, lumbering Crazy Horse skronk, urgent anthems, haunting pop, and comforting ballads. It's a sonic tour de force, but like her songs, To the Sunset isn't splashy: it's handsome and layered, alluring upon the first impression but revelatory upon revisits.
To the Sunset Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine