taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs


For The Love Language’s second album Libraries, band primary Stuart McLamb had the Herculean task of one-upping a record that started as an outlet for honest-to-God heartbreak and wound up as one of the most stunningly emotive and visceral pop/rock albums of the year. Without another break-up to feed him creative inspiration, how would he conceive a worthy follow-up? For starters, by recording in an actual studio with an actual band playing behind him. On his self-titled debut, his effort was of the lo-fi, DIY bedroom sort and the result is, well, good, but not quite as good. The first thing one will notice about Libraries is that, beyond the wall of reverb-soaked, grandiose pop instrumentation, it requires an excruciatingly careful listen to derive any meaning from McLamb’s songs. His voice is almost always too obscured by his own devices to soak it in on a first, second or sometimes third listen. In the meantime, however, the album’s classic pop arrangements recall the Spectors and Wilsons who once mastered the sound, but at others sound derivative of Golden Oldie classics. “Blue Angel” utilizes the same croonery found on classic ’50s cuts like “Blue Velvet” and “Sixteen Candles” without really adding to the equation. Once you finally do make sense of his words, you discover that it’s almost a rationalization of whatever feelings he captured on the first record. The languorous weeper “This Blood is Our Own” describes that reality in the words “Waiting to catch that lighting/ for now we’ll wait and see what grows/ all we’ve reaped is all we’ve known/ And now were married together,” as if he’s envisioning an alternate reality where his romantic outcomes differed and only resulted in more misery. Despite some noticeable flaws, the album is a success overall thanks to its stunning arrangements, even if it is at the cost of McLamb’s muddled message.


The Love Language will play the Cat’s Cradle on Saturday with the string section of Lost in the Trees in support.