Album Review: The Love Language – Libraries

[Merge ; 2010]

The term “bedroom project” often conjures a certain image of a secluded artist creating isolated works in a purposely lo-fi fashion. While The Love Language, the vision of Raleigh musician Stuart McLamb, may have originally formulated in this sense, it has since transformed into a full-fledged band—one expanding into a richly layered indie-pop outfit. As the North Carolina five-piece has developed their sound since their 2009 self-titled debut, their musical charm has become increasingly catchy and familiar. There’s nothing more readily apparent on their sophomore release Libraries, one that possesses all this and more throughout its 33 minutes of charismatic warmth and endearing accessibility.

Libraries opens with a lively, swooning orchestration and simple but emphatic drums, before breaking for McLamb’s introduction on “Pedals,” as he ardently declares “A season for the both of us.” With his vocals falling somewhere between a reverb-drenched James Murphy and a poignant Alejandro Escovedo, The Love Language songwriter transcends his own impactful instrumentation by letting his voice take the lead throughout “Pedals.”

“Brittany’s Back” cohesively picks up the pace just as “Pedals” winds down, before settling into a “This Blood Is Our Own”—a meandering waltz laced with steel-guitars and soaring harmonies. Libraries defines itself as a record in this way, a constant ebb and flow that refuses to let the listener settle into a comfortable lull. One minute The Love Language sound like a sweeping Chris Taylor production (“Blue Angel”), the next an infectiously syncopated 60’s pop-ballad (“Heart To Tell”).

Libraries, well, is unremarkably like what the title suggests, a collection of McLamb’s widespread influences. Rather than emerging as a collage of different sounds, however, The Love Language manage to seamlessly blend styles in a chameleon-like regard. That’s not to say that McLamb runs around flailing his influences like Beck on Odelay in a distinctly shape-shifting manner. Instead, think of a lusher Dr. Dog, conjuring memories of their pop predecessors without ever staying in one place for too long. Libraries resonates as something entirely recognizable, yet never defines itself on one given influence.

It’s this sense of fluidity that makes Libraries short, sweet and one of the best surprises of the year. For a one time bedroom project that was “never intended to be a band,” according to McLamb, The Love Language have grown into an earnest expansion of his musical lineage. Looking at Libraries, it is amazing to see how far The Love Language have come in such a short time, and how they have unexpectedly positioned themselves as one of the most alluring indie-pop acts in recent memory.