Tip of the Sphere

Cass McCombs - Tip of the Sphere
Critic Score
Based on 19 reviews
2019 Ratings: #364 / 737
User Score
Based on 135 ratings
2019 Ratings: #653
February 8, 2019 / Release Date
LP / Format
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cassmccombs.com / Website
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Tiny Mix Tapes

Tip of The Sphere, and I might be wrong, seems to be an album of unity in isolation.

Northern Transmissions

Tip Of The Sphere is a dense album with a lot to say about the American Ouroboros, eating and recycling itself to no end.


The quickfire recording process has led to by far his most consistent, and finest, record to date.

The Line of Best Fit

Within the LP’s musings, we as listeners look to him as he maintains a sense of worldliness and top-tier deftness as a songwriter and within those wonders and expectations, he invites us along as we get the chance to engage with his particular, introspective vision.


He’s playing on his own terms, and the end result is a near flawless documentation of the end of times.


On his ninth album, the reserved bandleader incorporates more classic rock references than usual, but they’re the frames for subtleties and surprises within.


Nine records and counting, McCombs is as magnetic and unmistakable as ever.

The 405

With Tip of the Sphere, he indulges more than ever in extended Grateful Dead-evoking jams, whimsical narratives, dream-like reveries and outré production choices.

Under The Radar

The album, a charmingly rough-edged collection of sincere alt-country rambles and experimental grooves, is less topical and lush than 2016's Mangy Love but contains more personality and continues McCombs' hot streak as America's best folk singer/songwriter.


Despite its front-loaded tracklist and one song that sonically doesn’t fit, Tip of The Sphere is great for both the casually-interested listener or the seasoned listener looking for something to slowly melt into and later pick apart.

Spectrum Culture

McCombs’ music is in some ways difficult to define, since he at times sounds like he holds the listener at arm’s length, with music at once intimate and impersonal. But Tip of the Sphere, as with so many of his albums, is a mystery well worth contemplating.

American Songwriter

The production, arrangements and overall audio are beautifully crafted, McCombs’ askew concepts are, well … intriguing, and this hour long album is another impressive notch in the belt of a talented artist.


While a potential gem for certain Grateful Dead-philes and possibly off-putting to some even well-established fans, the album's diversions, textures, and McCombs' particular way with words should appeal to more than merely the Garcia set.

Loud and Quiet

Though figures like Ryley Walker might be marking the same territory but with more edge and darkness, McCombs is one of the most masterful proponents of Americana working today.

Rolling Stone

It’s deceptively chill music that, like most of McCombs work, honors the past while steeling itself for the future.


The Californian acoustic king noodles away to himself on this sporadically breezy ninth album, apparently oblivious as to whether you’re listening or not.


This album is a black-belt in terms of song writing and instrumentation…but when McCombs’ lyrics can’t match up, ‘Tip Of The Sphere’ sounds like it’s limping.

The Skinny

Tip of the Sphere is a record that never quite seems to find its feet despite having a plethora of creative and interesting ideas.

Tip of the Sphere?

Top of the Pile! :D
On ‘Sleeping Volcanoes’, the first advance single from Tip of the Sphere, Cass McCombs tells it like it is whilst sounding uncannily like Sultans of Swing-era Mark Knopfler:

“Help us, Armageddon
We’re over it!”

It’s a prescient sentiment from a man who has always made a point of being out of step with the zeitgeist. Then again, misanthropy is timeless, right? We’ve always deserved to die. Sometimes we just deserve it a little bit more. And now ... read more
Glad you're back, Cass.
One of those albums that reveals itself slowly over multiple listens. This record is vast, complex, and, at its heart, utterly brilliant. It's got a slow vibe all its own, and the songwriting here puts McCombs' years of experience on full display.
McCombs' delivers jammy, and groovy indie rock with a psychedelic twist that makes for a casual and immersive listen.
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Year End Lists


Track List

  1. I Followed the River South To What
  2. The Great Pixley Train Robbery
  3. Estrella
  4. Absentee
  5. Real Life
  6. Sleeping Volcanoes
  7. Sidewalk Bop After Suicide
  8. Prayer For Another Day
  9. American Canyon Sutra
  10. Tying Up Loose Ends
  11. Rounder
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Added on: October 30, 2018