The Skins sucked this year, it’s cold as hell, and the economy rots. Lean times call for low music. So, Washington, D.C., meet Bitter, Bitter Weeks, aka one-man band Brian D. McTear, whose voice is made entirely of lemon juice, whiskey, and honey. He’s a strummin’, bummed-out human hot toddy, and he’s gonna help you get through all this. A Pennsylvanian producer of indie-rock records by the likes of Matt Pond PA and Lefty’s Deceiver, McTear crosses over to the other side of the glass nicely, orchestrating the bittersweet pocket symphonies on his long-playing debut with little more than acoustic guitar and the odd pedal steel or banjo. “[Y]ou’re wearing black/And I’m three shades of gray,” he sings on “You Paralyze My Heart,” and—McTear’s totally gonna hate this—it’s hard not to think of David Gray, whose voice McTear’s resembles not just a little and whose recent A New Day at Midnight was a big letdown. “These are the best days/Of my life,” McTear sings on, uh, “The Best Days of My Life,” before whispering, “But it’s all a big lie.” It’s not all doom and gloom with Bitter, Bitter Weeks, though—even if it’s close. “Taking Pills” finds McTear poppin’ Xanax after taking his sweetie to the airport, noting sadly that “at the end/Of each day/We all go off to our dreams/Alone.” Later on, though, after falling in love with someone he saw singing, he chides himself, saying, “Oh/Stop acting like there’s nothing left/To dream.” So you see, there is hope. One catch: In the same song, he notes that the girl he’s just kissed is married. (Say it with me now: “Go Skins!”) Still, there’s something in these economical arrangements and relentlessly catchy, kinda-Celtic melodies that makes you not want to kill yourself. And there are even glimmers of real optimism in “Happiness,” wherein McTear marvels, “The greats keep getting greater,” and “Water in the Basement,” wherein he exhorts somebody (I’m guessing himself) to get up and deal with the day, even though a recent flood of bad luck has left his psyche covered in muck. “Good morning!” he shouts. “Rise and shine!” It’s moments like these when McTear’s a man for all seasons—cold-as-hell, flat-broke ones especially. —Andrew Beaujon

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