The backdrop is a sleepy North Carolina town:
Boy meets girl. Love ensues. There are a bunch of things in between. Girl breaks boy’s heart. Boy retreats to a storage space to settle his brain and soul by drowning himself in creativity, bleeding his thoughts onto paper and into the world. Nothing feeds art quite like despair, and that’s exactly what Stuart McLamb, the initial vision behind The Love Language, did.
McLamb admits that The Love Language was never really supposed to be a band, but rather the work of a heartbroken guy needing to tell an ex-girlfriend exactly what was on his mind. However, the result was 2009’s self-titled debut, a gorgeous lo-fi album, beautifully flawed and raw… sometimes you have to expose a vein or two if you’re going to heal.
One would think after listening to “The Love Language” in its entirety, it would be hard for the band to come even remotely close to the intimacy of the first album, on the second, but McLamb and his musicians do just that on Libraries; and this time he’s made the jump from Portland’s indie label, Bladen County, to Merge Records.
Libraries opens with the stunning “Pedals,” and this is also where the goosebumps start, and the listener, anyone who’s been there and knows the ache of loss anyway, will carry these through the entire album… and then some. “Pedals” is delicate at first, but quickly snowballs into a powerful and intense song that sets a standard for the rest of the album, both lyrically and musically: “I loved you with broken arms/Competition has lost its charm.”
“Wilmont,” starts as an acoustic ode: “Tore a page from your diary/Put it on the windowsill/To trace the lilacs blooming/But none of them can stay still/And you want me to haunt you/But you’ve started sprouting your wings…” and soon after explodes into a heavy, melodic near-perfect love song. Revolving around the anguish of hearing that a former flame is back in town, “Wilmont,” is a defining moment on the album and a beauty tucked nicely in towards the end of a fantastic and emotional sophomore record.
Each song on Libraries is well-crafted, and every final detail has been doubled checked, and the results are exquisite. While we’re not sure who went and broke Stuart McLamb’s heart, this one fan is mildly grateful. With every defeat, with every fracture and broken bit, there comes the aftermath, and sometimes the parts that need recovery come out better for having suffered in the first place.
By: Amanda Chatel
11 Sept: Hopscotch Music Festival, Raleigh, NC
17 Sept: Henry Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
19 Sept: Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA
20 Sept: SOHO Music Club, Santa Barbara, CA
22 Sept: Filmore, San Francisco, CA
24 Sept: Showbox at The Market, Seattle, WA
25 Sept: Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
28 Sept: Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO
30 Sept: The Waiting Room, Omaha, NB
01 Oct: First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
03 Oct: The Blue Note, Columbia, MO
05 Oct: Academy of Contemporary Music, Oklahoma City, OK
06 Oct: House of Blues, Dallas, TX
07 Oct: House of Blues, Houston, TX
(from 19 Sept thru 07 Oct, dates will include Local Natives…score.)
“Manteo” from their self-titled debut, live at Mercury Lounge in NYC: