Todd Snider’s been doing the politically-inspired, wiseacre folkie thing for close to 20 years now, so it’s admirable – if not outright surprising – that he can still make good on many of the same ideas he’s had knocking around during that time. Touchingly funny songs with sad elements, touchingly sad songs with funny elements, musings on whether or not there’s a higher power, the highs and lows of substance abuse – with all the wonderful, unbelievable stories prioritized over almost everything else.
The perhaps-unsurprisingly titled Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, Snider’s first studio release since 2009′s The Excitement Plan (last year, he released a rewarding-if-rambling live record, The Storyteller), carries a lot of depth and emotional weight, as per usual. “Good things happen to bad people,” as the chorus goes on “New York Banker,” but we learn the inverse is true as well in “In the Beginning.” It’s a full-band album, too, its pessimistic moments punctuated by ominous electric guitar, the lighthearted ones propelled by fleshed-out rollicking.
But throughout, he buoys his politics and Big Statement Songs with that trademark Snider smirk, reminding us that he’s human, as we all are, and that it’s our conversations that allow us to relate to each other. “Yukon Jack and Digger Dave sound like a couple of names I might’ve just made up,” Snider sings on “Digger Dave’s Crazy Woman Blues.” “But I’m telling you: This is the truest story I tell.”