Saul Conrad’s third album, a tyrant and lamb, is an unassuming affair. No wonder the title is all lower case, as these song feel reticent to label themselves. For one, the album may have a basic singer-songwriter center, but Conrad drifts far away from the expectations that come with that. He toys with clanging piano and huge vocal harmonies on “Carousel”, while “Wool & War” opens up on thumping toms. “Bumbling Fool” is the most forceful moment on the record, weaving blistering guitar work into its kaleidoscopic pop structure. Despite its willful experimentation, a tyrant and lamb is a gentle affair. In particular, Conrad sings quietly here, but manages to be soft without being sleepy on standouts like “Where You Been”, “Wool & War”, and “Ferris Wheel Cody”. Songs like “Special K” and “Hollow” travel a pretty straightforward folk-pop path and, as a result, feel like they slow down the more dynamic tunes here. But as a whole a tyrant and lamb is a good, surprising record, and a good lesson in finding power without overt force or volume.
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