Paradoxically warm and melancholy
Cut Worms—the stage name of musician and artist Max Clarke—is back with Nobody Lives Here Anymore, a massive 17-track folk album that stays hauntingly true to its roots. The Brooklyn-based musician infused every element of classic ’60s pop music in the album, and his poetic lyrics create a paradoxically warm yet depressing feeling that’s present from start to finish. It’s the poetic lyrics that actually allow the listener to recognize the modern timestamp of the album, as the employment of a honky-tonk piano, horns, distorted guitar and bells make it sound like something ripped off from the late ’60s with the blend of rock and folk. Though there isn’t much variation or experimentation on the album, it certainly stands as a timeless piece true folk fans will adore.
One of the most intriguing and dynamic elements on the album can be found in the lyrical craft of each song. From track to track, Cut Worms invites the listener into a new story filled with raw emotion and admission. In “Last Words To A Refugee,” Clarke questions “oh my love/ what more can we do/ I feel so helpless/ don’t you,” to the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar and soft percussion. The music itself makes the environment warm and comforting, yet the lyrics are wistful and forlorn. This clash of warmth and pain indicate a sentimental acceptance of an unwelcoming reality, which seems to be a motif on the album.
In “Looks Like Rain,” a similar mellow ambiance is created with the combination of acoustic guitar and snare drum as Clarke sings “when you watch the sky/ and it looks like rain/ and you can’t go back the way you came,” again remorsefully saying goodbye to the past. Though it isn’t glaring, this motif of letting go without the desire to is one that will likely resonate with most people in 2020. From the upcoming tumultuous election to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarke hits the nail on the head when it comes to outlining how people feel regarding the state of the world.
From an instrumental standpoint, the album certainly can seem lengthy and repetitive at times. Though there isn’t anything wrong with a specific song, shortening the tracklist may have assisted in sharpening the strong poetic themes being woven together, as aforementioned. However, fans of the timeless folk-rock sound will likely see this as a good thing, giving them more to enjoy before a future album release. Musically, the album sounds purely like popular ‘60s music—particularly the blend of folk-rock that arose during the late ‘60s—though the majority sounds predominantly folk. “The Heat Is On,” features a bluesy, sharp guitar riff and a melodic feminine chorus that echo Clarke’s John-Denver-esque vocals. “Unnatural Disaster” features a distorted guitar that immediately invokes a western feeling, which is also expertly implemented in “Castle In The Clouds.” “The Golden Sky” sounds exactly like a lullaby, with no one instrument dominating another. Every element in the song seems relaxed and passive, appealing to a more peaceful nature in the listener.
Though Nobody Lives Here Anymore is definitely on the slower side, there are some upbeat songs scattered across the album as well. “Always On My Mind,” is much more playful with a vocal choir, bells and shakers featured throughout the song, along with a strong ebb and flow directed by Clarke’s vocals and guitar. Whereas most songs feel like sitting near still water, “Always On My Mind,” is like taking a ride down a stream of running water. “A Love So Fine,” features this type of excitement as well with the fast-paced percussion and enthusiastic background vocals contributing to the lively sensation of the song.
Overall, Cut Worms delivered an expertly well-crafted second album, even if it was a bit lengthy at certain points. Without a dynamic arrangement of songs, it is difficult to sit through all 17 tracks, though no song had any particular issues. Shortening the tracklist may have assisted in sharpening the strong poetic themes being woven together as aforementioned. However, fans of the timeless folk-rock sound will likely not mind, giving them more to enjoy before a future album release. There isn’t a bad song on Cut Worms, and Max Clarke truly delivered a wonderful piece with Nobody Lives Here Anymore.