Tip of the Sphere follows 2016's Mangy Love, which was named a "Best Rock Album of the Year" by Pitchfork, was featured in the Washington Post's "Best Music of 2016," plus many other best of 2016 lists, and was Cass McCombs' overall most critically praised release. While most of McCombs albums have been pieced together in different studios over an extended period of time, Tip of the Sphere was recorded quickly and with a strong sense of purpose at Shahzad Ismaily's Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn. This new approach for McCombs brought his songs a raw immediacy and a special balance of compassion and experimentation with the intent of making a more consistent statement. The rock songs have more fervor, the ballads are more beautiful, the explorations more confident; the sounds of jazz and Latin music creep in through the back window. Engineered by Sam Owens (aka Sam Evian), Tip of the Sphere features the core band of McCombs (guitar, vocals), Dan Horne (bass), Otto Hauser (drums) and Frank LoCrasto (piano, organ, and more), plus a range of guests. The LP recounts what has unfolded in the wake of Mangy Love's pre-inaugural prophetic themes. It presents an artist trying to make sense of it all through a relentless, ever searching creative process. Throughout, McCombs floats through a suite of songs driven by a journeying mysticism and dark grace. The thematic centerpiece, "Sleeping Volcanoes," is a rousing, rock and roll number that uses a distinct lyrical approach to intensify the narrative. On the main refrain, a key phrase of the song is repeated continuously and taken through its possible meanings, almost like a jazz musician repeating a musical phrase through key and chord changes. As described by McCombs, "Sleeping Volcanoes" is about "people passing each other on the sidewalk unaware of the emotional volatility they are brushing past, like a sleeping volcano that could erupt at any moment."