Austin alt-country outfit Numbers And Letters open their full-length debut with a brash declaration: “The fire’s been lit,” sings frontwoman Katie Hasty on “Ghost.” “I hope you still love this house, ’cause I just burned it down.” She’d rather torch the place than share it with ghosts who lurk but don’t pay rent. It’s a memorable introduction to an album littered with memories of doomed loves and populated by lovers pushed to emotional extremes. Hasty’s lyrics can be a little overwrought, especially on the quiet “Dark Adam,” but they’re never timid. Plus, she sings them in a voice that’s eloquently textured and expressive, barely suppressing a southern accent that subtly bends her notes and syllables. On “If You Say the Words,” Hasty (a music critic for Hitfix) sounds both wounded and determined as she hits the high notes and delivers weary observations about “love wasted on me.” With each song, the band introduces some new idea or sound that expands the album’s palette: the sympathetic clarinet accompaniment on “Stacks and Stacks,” the violent punctuation of guitars on “Ghost,” the Morricone moodiness of “Wading.” Guns Under Water is all over the places, yet Numbers And Letters never sounds scattered or unfocused, thanks largely to the band’s charismatic frontwoman. She brings the house down.
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