The Love Language with Giant Cloud
10 p.m. Friday
Circle Bar, 1032 St. Charles Ave., 588-2616
Here we are snowed in at Flying Tiger Sound," Stuart McLamb says, "with three songs to try to accomplish in these three days."
So opens a revealing behind-the-scenes video of the making of Libraries, the sophomore album from Durham, N.C.'s The Love Language, released on Merge Records in July. Where many artists guard the sanctity of the recording process like a nest, McLamb invited cameras into friend B.J. Burton's studio to capture his capturing of The Love Language's leap from lo-fi bedroom project to grand-sounding rock band. The intimate short film shows McLamb and Burton laying down guitar, drum and vocal tracks and discussing possible mixes in between childlike breaks for slap shots and sledding.
"We were in the middle of the album at that point," McLamb recalls. "We were together for almost two months straight, recording like every hour of every day."
"It was a bunch of overnight sessions," Burton says. "During the day we would just kind of hang out and talk about music and the album."
The fruit of those wintry all-nighters is a richly produced LP, summery in its lush '60s pop sheen but autumnal in subtextual tone. As on his eponymous 2009 debut, a vigorously cathartic breakup record written for an ex, McLamb sings of familiar mope tropes: changing seasons, fleeting feelings, loves he's actively losing. But Libraries' ambitions are clear from the start. "Pedals," the album's heftiest arrangement, crashes like a tidal wave 40 seconds in, a rip tide of breath-catching strings, Phil Spector-borrowed drum hits and yearning Morrissey vocals yielding an immediate rush. That mic mastery is perhaps The Love Language's greatest transmutation between albums; a distortion-masked yelper before, here McLamb stretches octaves like Patsy Cline ("This Blood is Our Own") and coaxes serenades like Roy Orbison ("Summer Dust").
"I was dealing with a lot of the same themes," he says. "The difference is, on the first record, I would've probably recorded the next day on a shitty eight-track I had. There was an immediacy to that album on how quickly the songs were documented after conception. On Libraries, I spent about a year writing the songs and making demos, and it was recorded in a month and a half. At the time of recording, my thoughts were more into the sounds; I was removed from the emotions a little bit. It was more about the sonics on this record."
The sound changed dramatically from the spare demos McLamb first brought in, Burton says.
"As we were laying stuff down, it would trigger new ideas and we would embellish them," he says "'Pedals' turned real shoegaze-y, with atmospheric guitars and reverb. Then we had the strings come in, and we kept rolling with it. We were excited about how big it sounded, new and fresh, experimenting with a big landscape of sound."
McLamb credits Burton with realizing his visions both in the studio and onstage, where the producer has joined the band as a regular guitarist. "I had ideas about how it needed to sound, but I didn't have the engineering expertise," he says. "I explained what I wanted and he nailed the sound. In the live setting, he's been great for understanding nerdy shit like (room) sonics and EQ-ing our amps so everything sits at a good level. I'm dependent on him. If you watch me at sound check, I'm going to plug in my pedals, turn on my amp, play some shit and look right at B.J. and be like, 'Sound cool? All right.'"