City of Vines opens with “Molly the Flood,” a shit-kicking country rocker about a girl who leaves trouble in her wake. “The Ragged Kind” follows and manages to distill 60 years of rock n’ roll into under four minutes–the hooks are mile-wide and the song’s energy is infectious.
“Shadowboxer” comes on more subtly–there is a vulnerability at play as the singer questions the consequences of his actions–and the title track is similarly restrained and self-questioning.
“16 Lovers” features some fine guitar work by Brian Morrissey and a strong lead vocal by Anderson, while “Tooth and Tongue” has a playful funkiness that recalls Little Feat. “Diamonds” slows things down a touch–warm keyboard notes are punctuated by snappy percussion–while “The Winding Hour” is mid-tempo and almost jazzy in its execution.
City of Vines closes with two especially strong numbers: “Cherokee Rose” is a high-lonesome album highlight while “July” is grandiose and moody, a country cousin to The National’s sprawling Brooklyn rock.