"That river, in the winter, it could fuck me up," croons Eastern Oregon singer/songwriter Margo Cilker at the top of her latest single. "Crack my ribs, bust my lip / It could do enough." It's a startling image—not what the track sets us up for with its first few seconds of saloon-ready piano and galloping guitar. It's tactile, brutal, almost gleefully subversive. She sings it beautifully.
The rest of "That River" lives up to that auspicious beginning with a twisty lyrical structure, no-nonsense production, and well-employed multi-tracking. Memories layer on top of memories, strings kick in, and the whole thing gives off a soft autumnal glow that encourages repeat spins and belies some narrative complexity. It works perfectly well as an auditory cup of hot cider while supporting the nagging sense that something more intricate lurks beneath the surface.
Cilker's debut LP Pohorylle, which will follow her 2018 EP California Dogwood, is out November 5. "That River" follows July's "Tehachapi" and August's "Barbed Wire (Belly Crawl)" as the record's third single. You can pre-order the whole thing here.
Check out the music video for "That River," in which Cilker drives to Jordan Valley with Basque Christmas mascot Olentzero, below: