Mean to Stay

On Mean to Stay, Montana’s Caroline Keys is hellbent on illuminating the dark corners of brooding Americana, the kind you listen to under cover of night while nursing a sweaty tumbler of rye. With crack backing band the Lanesplitters in tow, the album’s symbiosis of dreamy country missives and sweeping Big Sky attitude unfurls slowly and with purpose, giving stability to even the more sparse songs. “Back to Hungry Horse” breaks up the roadhouse country nailed by Keys’ understated melodic elegance, while “Two Story House” shifts the presiding ambiance of malaise with a juke-joint rocker that gives glimpses into Keys’ storytelling acumen. “Nothing Better” emerges as the LP standout, narrating the caveats of a dead-end relationship with the pleading verse, “I’ve got nothing better to do than to lay around thinkin’ ’bout you.” On Mean to Stay, the endearments are hard-earned with repeated listens, and students of heartbreak, longing and the resolve to overcome either are certain to find new anthems here.