Andrew Muse is a Pittsburgh singer/songwriter whose art-pop compositions are both irreverent and heartfelt.
This past Friday, Muse released Interluder, the follow-up to last summer’s excellent Smoker’s Row. Interluder opens with “Hard,” a song that draws its strength from the empty spaces that Muse allows to stretch out between tangled scrabbles of acoustic guitar. Muse accompanies each thicket of notes with his impossibly expressive voice, by turns whispering, speaking, crooning, and belting. It’s like the guitar is pulling a story out of him on the fly, and each echoing pause is an opportunity for both artist and instrument to gather their thoughts. Muse hasn’t lost the knack for imbuing sexually explicit observations with deep pathos; near the beginning of this track, he mourns, “Boys come, don’t I know it/But they never, ever come for me,” letting it rip on that “NEAVUUUHHHR” like he’s SpongeBob delivering a Krusty Krab Pizza through an aquatic wasteland.
The song drifts on through warnings about “boys in cemeteries,” descriptions of hardened hearts (and other things), and anguished goodbyes. “Hard” is a tragic acoustic-soul ballad done weird and avant-garde–in other words, classic Muse.