Release Date: Jul 23, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Anyone who has been in couples therapy probably knows the idea behind "the five love languages"—an idea that each person interprets love in different ways, and those can be broken down into fundamental languages. It's a way of understanding another person's emotions by acknowledging that they respond to actions and words differently than you do, which can be a difficult mental leap for even the most well-intentioned human beings. .
The Love Language's self-titled 2009 debut was endearingly frayed collection of alt-country pop, 1960s garage-rock swagger, and Spector-esque swells of melodrama, all recorded by leader Stuart McLamb, alone on his four-track. McLamb scrounged together seven-piece band to tour the record, and the adaptation of the rough-hewn debut album to a live setting was a revelation, as the motley lineup made each of McLamb’s songs pop in high-contrast technicolor. But McLamb's 2010 Merge debut, Libraries, found him continuing to record solo, crafting nuggets of Burt Bacharach inspired baroque pop if never quite moving beyond mid-tempo indie rock competency.
Boasting a small army of musicians and a more velvety studio sheen, Stuart McLamb's third outing under the Love Language moniker finds the Raleigh, North Carolina-based indie rocker offering up a cacophonous set of psych-tinged, shoegaze-kissed, Spector-esque Appalachian garage jams that, according to their author, "were scrawled with lungs full of mountain air, colored with spilled wine, and seasoned with the drawbars of a thrift store organ and tape echo. " It's an apt description, as the Merge-issued ten-track Ruby Red feels like it was built on a foundation of half-formed ideas that spontaneously (and explosively) evolved into fully functioning mini-epics during the recording process, resulting in something akin to a more focused GBV or a less strung-out Spiritualized. Festooned with hooks galore, heavier cuts like the propulsive opener "Calm Down," its bouncy twin sister "Kids," the lustrous "Faithbreaker," and the sultry and sanguine "First Shot" succeed not just through the simple science of volume, but because they take to their pummeling with such joie de vivre.
The Love Language steps further away from its lo-fi beginnings on Ruby Red, a restless third album of sonic exploration. North Carolina songwriter and multi-instrumentalist confectioner Stuart McLamb again teams with producer and guitarist BJ Burton, this time purposefully eschewing whatever boundaries may have hemmed in his early songs of heartbreak. Nothing on Ruby Red is as immediate as the jaunty guitar pop of Libraries’ first single “Heart To Tell” or “Brittany’s Back,” but across the board, Ruby Red’s songs exist in bigger spaces.
Stuart McLamb’s the Love Language started out as a bedroom rock outfit in the most literal sense. After the break-up of his former band, the Capulets, and the relatively simultaneous breakup with his girlfriend, McLamb went on a bender, moved back in with his parents, and began writing songs in earnest. Those songs were only meant to be heard by a few friends and—here’s the bedroom part—his ex-girlfriend, but they went viral and now we’re here at the Love Language’s third long-player, Ruby Red, which will conjure up images of two things: either red wine, or those lovely slippers that Dorothy clicked three times in order to retreat from Oz back to her farmhouse in Kansas.
In the three years following The Love Language’s 2010 release, Libraries, we’ve heard scarcely a peep from the promising Raleigh, NC upstarts. And because indie rock years – like dog years – seem to travel about seven times as fast, the band’s hiatus begs a trio of questions: where’d they go, what’ve they been up to, and what’ve they got for us now? Instead of playing every rock club in the contiguous 48, singer/songwriter Stuart McLamb took the road less traveled. He inched his way off the map, biding his time and toying with new sounds for The Love Language’s third album, Ruby Red.