Jeff Klein's smoky voice has a bruised world-weariness on The Hustler, his excellent third album, recorded with former Afghan Whig Greg Dulli and Mark Napolitano at the latter's New Orleans studio. The title track sets the tone, acoustic guitar picking flecked by glints of lap steel as Klein offers an oddly numb, haunted response to a lover's passion.
A brutal melancholy scars the album, which finds Klein offering one girl "another pity fuck before you fall asleep", and observing with almost ruthless relish the lonely subjects of "Nobody's Favourite Girl", "The 19th Hole" and "Suzanne". "Do you think they'll remember about you when you're gone?" he asks the latter, "Cos I don't think they even notice when you're around." Not that his meanness brings Klein much satisfaction, judging by the drowning metaphors of "Stripped" and "Cobalt Hue". But the settings are intriguing, with muted trumpet, backward guitar and expressive percussion.
Best of all is "Nearly Motionless", where fuzz guitar and clunking marimba surround Klein's acknowledgement that he's "still chained to broken dreams, and wishing on open scars".
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