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Preview: Cate Le Bon

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the Welsh singer, who comes to the Old U.S. Mint Jan. 9



Here's how the best album released in 2013, Mug Museum (Wichita) by Cate Le Bon, was a disappointment. After the Welsh singer's dual vehicles in 2012, the careening Cyrk and its sad sidecar EP, Cyrk II, spun open a wormhole to the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Le Bon teased her new record in late summer with two advance singles. "I Think I Knew," is a lovingly versed duet with Seattle cipher Perfume Genius, carried on a transatlantic breeze. Released two weeks later, "Are You With Me Now?" is an irresistible come-on that temporarily healed Le Bon's obsession with loss, entwined by the buzzing, curlicue guitar melodies — callbacks to Television, Velvet Underground, Os Mutantes — that have become such vivid, living characters in her songbook. A few times through, upon its arrival in November, those two tracks still leaped off the platter, while the balance melted into an indistinct mass. Now, months later and many more times over, I know it to be the most sharply defined of her works, a side one that doesn't stop (latest favorite "Duke" is a fantasized Gatsby gas: "We landscaped our legacies/ And fought about wars") followed by a spiraling freak-out that truly freaks out — by "Mirror Me," it's like a manic, bizarro carnival ride you can't get off. The last two offerings, "Cuckoo Through the Walls" and the encrypted, turncoat title track, are the echoes of madness bouncing around Le Bon's brain, the tides of sanity slowly pulling away, eroding her, a foregone conclusion foreshadowed in the slightly crazed hook of hopelessly happy opener "I Can't Help You." Who knew she was talking to herself the whole time? Tickets $10.

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