Richie Reinholdt has a way with words. On the local musician's latest release, Shelf Life, phrases like, "four wheel songs by morning light" and "the sky holding sunset in her hair" pepper songs that lope along in melancholic alt-country soundscapes. "Cold Moon" is especially catchy when he sings the lonely, echoing chorus: "Oh, moon. Go away. Leave me alone. Find some other manic heart to chill..." The self-destructive storyline of "Skeeter" recalls the best of Robert Earl Keen. And "Split the Sheets" evokes classic Bakersfield country.
The vacuum metaphor of "Vacuum" is a bit too silly for the rest of the album. "Beefaload," however, manages to be both playful and gripping—riding that fine line. When Reinholdt jabs at the celebrity industry of People magazine, pop hooks and life at the top using the phrase "Beefaload again," I don't get it exactly. But I like the weirdness of it.
Taken together, Shelf Life is a dramatic album, filled with pedal steel and Reinholdt's slightly strained vocals that evoke the twang of Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The best songs are the unpredictable ones, those less carefully mixed than others—when the drums aren't perfectly machine-like and the guitar solos don't frame the verses with innocuous precision.