On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ll be reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
Forget The Arcade Fire. The suburbs belong to The Love Language.
With Libraries, the band’s first album for Merge and second overall, Stuart McLamb and company deliver a surprising set of swoon-inducing indie rock replete with everything from hand claps to orchestral flourishes. Little more than a year behind the release of the band’s self-titled debut, this latest offering finds McLamb expanding his musical palette exponentially. What’s so surprising about the album, though, is the quality of its recording. Almost all traces of lo-fi grit which defined the band’s 2009 eponymous debut are gone from this set of songs. Essentially a solo effort, the self-titled disc was born of McLamb’s romantic and musical break-ups. He wrote, recorded, and performed the entirety of that first release himself, only later recruiting members to perform live. It’s hard now to go back and listen to that initial recording because of how limited it sounds.
Opening with the shimmering “Pedals,” through the nine following songs, it’s evident the sound McLamb’s been pursuing is finally coming through. Libraries sounds so different from the debut, it’s tempting to want to not call it the band’s sophomore release. It feels like a first. The music itself is upbeat and energetic, owing as much to doo-wop and Phil Spector as Saddle Creek or Merge’s modern indie-pop. McLamb’s music swings from infinite to intimate not only from song to song, but sometimes within each of the compositions themselves, often orchestral, lush and swirling. Despite being largely overlooked this past year, The Love Language crafted one of 2010’s best releases. Of course, it’s hard to court attention when even your own label’s stacked against you. Aside from the Arcade Fire’s third album, Merge also released highly touted music by She & Him, Caribou, Spoon, and Superchunk last year.
This album, though, feels like a middle school dance. Or like laying on the hood of your parents’ car with a girl for the first time, the engine still warm from driving, feeling around for what to do under a blanket despite the mid-summer air being only a bit below balmy. Maybe it’s the tambourine clinching that mood. Or each song’s boozy swagger. Or hints of bands like Jonathan Fire*Eater and how even song titles seem to reference American girl groups like The Angels. But everything about the recording makes me nostalgic for a type of cinematic youth no one’s actually had.Visit: The Love Language | Merge
Purchase: Insound | eMusic