Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Family"- Le Loup


Behold: "Family". The first full band LP from DC band Le Loup (and for you monolinguals, le loup is French for the wolf). Just take a second to grasp the album right? The album cover goes along with MPP for causing headaches at first glance. But like most good albums, the album's cover says almost everything about it, without giving away the sheer mystery of dark, ghostly tracks like "Beach House" and "Go West" that meander (in a good way) in the dark for a couple minutes, and evolve into choral, Fleet Foxes-esque celestial harmonies.

"Family" is everything Grizzly Bear's "Veckatimest" could have been, if they wouldn't have been so drawn out and dark all the time (see "Chearleader"). Rather, "Family" explores the darkness of "Veckatimest", the experimental mentality of "MPP" with the pop tendencies and instrumental prowess of Fleet Foxes. Take one listen to "Family", and you'll understand. These comparisons, however, don't suggest that Le Loup are copying anyone, or aren't unique; rather, they take the best of so many worlds of 2009, and take them even further. These comparisons won't make you think Le Loup are any less creative in their own right, but they help understand their merit, and possibly their influences.

"Saddle Mountain" is one of the most grandiose openers in awhile. Lead singer, Christian Ervin has a sort of George Harrison-esque Indian tendency for tones. It's really refreshing. "Beach House" is as much of a James Bond outtake as it is a Fleet Foxes one. The bass line is grooving and the atmosphere is mysterious, but later in the song all the arrangements come in and make the song shimmer. "Grow" is a jivin' tune; 'nuff said. "Morning Song" is the first wow. This track is honestly incredible. The use of the banjo and the acoustic guitars make everything sound so primitive and Appalachian, but the vocals are warm and welcoming, with lyrics to match it. "Pulled through the window while the world woke up/you found us folded together in the ghost-lit dawn"; if that isn't a poetic intepretation of morning, then screw you, because that is a poetic intepretation of morning! The harmonies on this song are pristine in the ghost-lit dawn. As with the album's title, family and home are recurring themes which help develop a purpose to the album and connect the songs together. The songs are truly folded together.

The title track recalls the Indian drones of "Saddle Mountain", but in a less addictive way. Again, with the family references that tie they album together wonderfully; "I know my father/I know my mother/I know grandfather/I know grandmother". "Forgive Me" is a rushing anthem. I can almost hear U2-esque guitar lines being put in here and it sounding perfect. Another theme in this album, ghosts. Whether the ghost-lit dawn, or wondering why the ghost won't haunt you, this album's darkness is clearly self aware. The instrumentation on this album, like I mentioned, shows that the band is very strong. Grass-roots instruments like banjos ("Go East") and acoustic guitars combine with pianos and weird loops. Let "Sherpa" grow into the sing-along that is it, let "Go East" grow into the anthem, and your ears will be rewarded. It doesn't take a lot of thought or time to appreciate or even love this album. "Neahkahnie" is sort of a reprise of "Beach House" but with the same effect as "Morning Song".

"I am a man but I take it further/not just a surface but a complicated structure"; this wise line can be used to summarize the whole of "Family". This album takes dark atmoshperes, choral harmonies, grandiose drums, rootsy banjos, and sweet melodies further. And to boot, "Family" is definitely a complicated structure.

Key tracks: "Morning Song", "Beach House"

Listen if you like: Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear

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