Jesse Lortz's follow-up project to the Dutchess and the Duke found him going solo and generally starker as Case Studies; if The World Is Just a Shape to Fill the Night came out in a year when it seemed like there were even more sensitive folkie records than ever before, it also succeeds more than most of its contemporaries by virtue of its differing reference points. Instead of sweetness and general summer afternoon blissfulness, Lortz's lyrical and singing voice, partly drawing on his own unsettled personal situation at the time, emphasizes pronouncement and a darker mood, something not too far removed from Lee Hazlewood on the one hand -- at a remove, admittedly -- and Michael Gira on the other, perhaps more in his early Angels of Light mode. Either figure would have suited a song like "Texas Ghost Story" (not to mention its counterpart "California Ghost Story"), but the conversational storytelling Lortz employs draws on any number of sources, enjoyably if not yet uniquely synthesized. Further contrasts throughout the album via backing singers and other musical guests add a sense of constant tension in a creative way, something that feels like a continued conversation, part echo and part direct response, something that the sentiments of the song "Dagger" render especially charged. The concluding electric guitar on "Lies" has a sting and formality to it that feels utterly unlike rock & roll, something intentionally antique, a retrofitted '80s group instrument. Songs like "The Eagle or the Serpent," drumming building up more throughout the song as backing vocals rise in impact, give a sense of Lortz's reach -- the album isn't, say, Pink Moon -- but all while maintaining a calm, theatrical control, perhaps only calming down a touch with the closer, "The Day We Met," sung almost as a soft rumination into the mike. One especially killer line seems to sum up the album as a whole, from "You Folded Up My Blanket": ."..I'm a long long long way from home...and I like it."