The Love Language - The Love Language (Reissue) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Love Language - The Love Language (Reissue)

by Brian Thompson Rating:7 Release Date:2019-07-12
The Love Language - The Love Language (Reissue)
The Love Language - The Love Language (Reissue)

The Love Language’s modest 2009 self-titled debut album may not have been a huge commercial smash, but it certainly caught the attention of anyone who cared to give it a listen on their Myspace account. Stuart McLamb's bleeding-heart, lo-fi basement recordings struck a nerve with people, leading to the project being signed to Merge Records. What began as one man’s outlet after a nasty breakup went on to become one of the essential DIY indie pop records of the new millennium. For its ten-year anniversary, Merge is giving the out-of-print release a well-deserved reissue. 

The moody, old-fashioned piano ballad “Two Rabbits” opens the album, setting the bittersweet tone as Stuart McLamb's buzzing, distorted vocals sift through the pieces of a shattered relationship. In the moments to follow, McLamb goes between the quiet and contemplative (campfire sing-a-long “Stars,” harmonious, acoustic “Manteo,” communal, sing-song piano tune “Nightdogs”) and the zesty and upbeat (explosive guitar pop number “Lalita,” infectious, spastic “Sparxxx,” bouncy, expansive “Providence”) as he wallows in the aftermath of a failed romance. He finds the best of both worlds with “Nocturne,” as lively, swirling keys lead into a swell of both sound and emotion.

Curiously, the reissue makes the tonal choice to not do anything to clean up the grainy audio of McLamb's sloppy bedroom demos. The self-starter immediacy of the record has always added to its enduring charm, but two of the bonus tracks here are clearer, more polished versions of songs on the original release (the aforementioned “Manteo” and the sad and sweet “Graycourt”) and it’s enough to make the listener wish the entire album had been given this treatment. Still, from this brief window into what The Love Language would sound like with a higher production value is a staunch testament to how well these tracks hold up under scrutiny. 

Rounding out the album with the previously unreleased “Equinox,” an electrified and peppy pop tune, and “Hello Mary Lou,” a rowdy, cowboy guitar take on the Gene Pitney-penned classic, the reissue gives us a taste of what The Love Language would soon become on the albums to follow. But it’s those initial songs that hold up terrifically well. Stuart McLamb found magic in storage spaces and living rooms, and we were able to witness a musician finding his voice right before our eyes. A reissue of The Love Language offers little more than a treasure for vinyl collectors, but it’s a welcome reminder of the inception of one of lo-fi indie pop’s most endearing acts.

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