Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

That Dog: Old LP [UMe, 2019]
Two decades on, Anna Waronker's band sound as fresh and tuneful as they did in their twenties. With melodies on their way from catchy to exquisite, it's alt-rock primarily by historical association--far from obtruding, the many chamber-string parts complete a sonic concept you always sensed was there. Though the hyperconscious lyrics often seem constricted, resentful, unresolved, the music lifts them up, and then the the title finale lifts the whole album up. Having vaguely expected a fond joke about Waronker and bandmate Rachel Haden's deep vinyl-era roots--Anna's dad Lenny Waronker, son of Liberty Records founder Simon Waronker, produced Arlo Guthrie, Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Rufus Wainwright, and his lifelong friend Randy Newman--I was instead bowled over by a devotional tribute to the power of recorded music to allay mortality. "I can hear you breathe," the pushing-50 Waronker sings to Rachel Haden's departed father, bass giant Charlie Haden. "I can see you right in front of me." For those few minutes, her mixed feelings go to heaven and the whole album seems to follow. A-