Experience them in person when McCombs plays Sunday, Dec. 4, at Great American Music Hall with White Magic and Liza Thorn. 8 p.m., $16.
It tells you something about Cass McCombs' ambition and talent that the lauded singer-songwriter released not one but two full-length albums this year. On April's Wit's End and November's Humor Risk, the Bay Area native continues his exploration of human life in rich, detailed lyrics — but instead of intimate confessions, McCombs' songs are built on elaborate fictions inspired partly by his years of wandering the country. Musically, his songs vary from bleak, torpid synthscapes ("County Line") to foot-tapping rockers ("Mystery Mail"). McCombs tends more toward the melancholy than the upbeat, but even his darkest moments are exquisitely vivid.