Todd Snider has always had a strange way of portraying optimism from bleak circumstances. He either forgot how or gave up on Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. It is a flat out a dark, pessimistic record. One many people probably thought Snider would never make. It is a huge change in mood from any of his other work.
The album isn’t bad by any means, just cynical. It’s just one minute into the record before someone starts to conspiring to kill somebody else, a theme that pops up a few times throughout the record. The first track “In The Beginning” details how religion was invented to separate the rich from the poor. The second song builds to a chorus of “Good things happen to bad people…” repeated several times. You expect the record to lighten up at some point but it doesn’t. The closest it comes is the song “Brenda” about two lovers in “true love” but at best the song ends in indifference.
Snider has recently ended his albums with an upbeat song like “Happy New Year” and “Good Fortune.” Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables ending song is “Big Finish” which sounds promising but can be summed up by the line “if I could do all this over, I wouldn’t do nothin’ the same.”
The album is still very good. Amanda Shires provides a dowsing of violin and female back vocals throughout the record to make the sound different from other Snider records. The highlights are “In The Beginning” and “The Very Last Time” which are up to the high standards Todd Snider has set for himself.
Key Tracks: “In The Beginning” “The Very Last Time” “In Between Jobs”