Seattle's Jason Webley plays an absorbing style of gloomy and contemplative indie folk. Mysterious lyrics sung in a raspy baritone combine with instruments like the accordion and guitar, while a cast of guest musicians drop violin, viola, percussion and guitarrón into the stew. Elements of rock, folk punk and gypsy music also creep in. In fact, The Cost of Living sounds like shades of Tom Waits mixed with the sharply honed musical dynamics of bands like Arcade Fire.
Some of the tightest cuts include "Ways to Love," a rousing tune that features obtuse lyrics about, of course, learning to love. "Clear" appears to be a post-breakup song, and showcases Webley's ace guitar picking, along with some heart wrenchingly stellar violin and viola melodies. But the best tune by far is "Meet Your Bride." It starts off mellow, with lyrics asking the listener how they'll meet their wife. Then, in a wild Waits-like climax, Webley starts shouting lines like "Tell me how are you going to meet your bride? / When she's crawling at your ribcage and demands to come inside?" It's a bit eerie and morose, but totally infectious, like the rest of the album.
Jason Webley plays the Top Hat Thu., Feb. 3, at 10 PM with Javier Ryan. $10/$8 advance at Ear Candy Music or at seafarerentertainment.com.