The Love Language - Baby Grand
You may not be able to see the gorgeous landscapes behind Baby Grand, Stuart McLamb’s fourth record as The Love Language, but they’re so essential to the picture you’ll feel them in every note. Started in, of all places, a cavernous Virginia hammock factory, fragmentary demos came alive when splashed by sunshine during a move across the country to California, where the album was completed. “It was something just about being in a new city, and a new light,” McLamb says, “and reopening the sessions, and this demo that I thought was a throwaway, suddenly I’m really feeling it….” You can hear the freedom kick in when the backwoods country shuffle of “Castle in the Sky” explodes into a full-on aughts anthem. Yet so much lies in the shadows behind these tracks: other states, other lives, other dreams, other relationships—fogged over, perhaps, but there nonetheless. Yes, Baby Grand has its share of breakup songs but this time, even as something is being mourned, something else is being worked through. Listen as the heartbreak and yearning of “New Amsterdam” come crashing down into the beautiful stasis of “Southern Doldrums” (the former was inspired by Cyndi Lauper and Joy Division, McLamb claims, while the latter draws upon John Cale’s meditative solo records). “I’ve embraced the idea that getting murky is what the band is,” says McLamb of the various assemblies of players and the various genre influences that have fuelled The Love Language at different points in time. “I love bands like the Ramones that have one thing that really works, and I love a good restaurant that serves one really good dish. But I get bored… I want this album to showcase different types of pop songwriting and structures.” The song “Juiceboxx” is what you’d get if Mick Jagger crooned his “Emotional Rescue” falsetto over a backing track by the Style Council. But it’s the finale that sends Baby Grand into the stratosphere. With Raleigh in his rearview, McLamb dusts off the ’60s throwback sounds of The Love Language’s 2009 self-titled debut, which are all over the flat-out-perfect “Independence Day.” And somewhere around New Orleans, he resuscitates those irresistible singalong melodies from 2010’s Libraries on “Paraty,” the lovely paean to a South American town he never managed to visit. It’s gotta be close to the best thing McLamb has ever written, and it culminates this alternately ruminative and riotous record on, fittingly, a note of reflection: “We’ll be riding out this losing streak,” he sings, “and they say the tides are rising / It took a long time to get us where we can’t come back…” You can’t leave something behind without starting something new, and the inverse of that proposition is just as true: when you stand on the Pacific coast, squinting into the sunset, there’s an entire country at your back, unseen but ever-present, and it stays with you forever.
Available on indies-only limited edition pink & yellow marble vinyl, with download