Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., July 1, 2011
"The mystery, the clarity/all the things I find," huffs Will Johnson on "Only in My Double Mind," a rusted stomp of bare-knuckle simplicity at the center of Centro-matic's 10th full-length. Consider it a summary of the prolific Monsters of Folk member's balancing act over the past decade, alternating between the iridescent avant-Americana of South San Gabriel and Centro-matic's ragged indie anthems. Having bridged this double-barrel mentality on 2008 SSG/CM split Dual Hawks, Johnson strips back Candidate Waltz, a taut collection of abstract portraits about interpersonal politics ("Estimate x 3") and trust broken over distance and time (haunting ballad "Shadow, Follow Me"). Johnson approached these nine songs from a position of discomfort, writing in isolation on his least familiar instrument, bass. Candidate Waltz therefore doesn't rip, but rather pulses, beginning with the one-two-three punch of percolating opener "Against the Line," bristling tour diary "All the Talkers," and the bouncy piano pop of "Iso-Residue," which stings like a Southern slant on Wilco's Summerteeth. Will Johnson can write himself out of any corner.