Kurt Wagner, the figurehead of American rock legends Lambchop, is always fairly regular with his releases, but with the band off the road for the last year he’s been extra productive. We got This (is what I wanted to tell you) in 2019, a live album last year, and today he’s revealed that we’ll be getting a new studio album called Showtunes on May 21.
The news comes heralded by the beautiful opening track “A Chef’s Kiss”, which Wagner says is “a reflection on the temporal nature of life and ultimately of song itself. A “chef’s kiss”, being a gesture toward something perfected or well done, even loved.”
Showtunes once again finds Wagner exploring new avenues, this time opting to translate his guitar melodies to midi piano – “suddenly I discovered I could “play” the piano” he says. “A Chef’s Kiss” is a warming and captivating introduction to this style, and the theme of ephemerality is an ideal match. Wagner takes us into moments that pass in an instant, but in his rich voice and over the stately expanse of his piano chords he seems to put them in slow motion so that we can really enjoy their richness; each swaying flower, each sunbeam breaking through the branches. That he should extrapolate into the idea of songs’ compactness, and then onto the brevity of life itself, is natural for a veteran like Wagner, and “A Chef’s Kiss” glides perfectly into these realms with only the minor additions of some trumpet, some upright bass (from Yo La Tengo’s James McNew) and a light flutter of piano melody, giving us plenty of space to sit and be mindful.