California singer/songwriter Cass McCombs’ Tip of the Sphere has a throwback, backroads Americana quality. This isn’t a reference to the album’s expected focus on folk and country harmonies, but more to how each track fits seamlessly next to its predecessor, weaving a mood, building an atmosphere. This is that rarest of modern albums -- one that’s meant to be listened to as a complete work, not merely as a disparate collection of singles. McCombs’s lyrical obsessions are dark, his characters sharply drawn. He’s a natural storyteller, a gifted troubadour. Bittersweet and disarming, he paints a picture like no one else can.