With its sixth full-length album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, Murder by Death has further defined its particular brand of alt-country. The recording is the band’s first for Bloodshot Records, but it marks another notable occasion: the writing contributions of multi-instrumentalist Scott Brackett (previously of Okkervil River and Shearwater), whose work on piano, trumpet, accordion, and backing vocals provide new musical details throughout.
In general, though, the band’s material is as well constructed and fully realized as ever, bridging country-western styles with punk- and chamber-rock sensibilities. From percussive and bass-anchored songs to others driven by piano and guitar riffs, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon tells as much of a musical story as a lyrical one. And that’s no small feat, as singer Adam Turla maintains an Old West lyrical tone while ranging his vocals from a Johnny Cash baritone to a high croon and even a spiteful hiss. Befitting the album (and its new label), Turla’s words about loss, lies, and loneliness are delivered with a cinematic beauty that recalls moonlit nights and warm whisky.