Top 25 Favorite Albums of 2010 | #10. The Love Language – Libraries

#10. The Love Language – Libraries

I play Libraries, and the opening swell of flitting strings and sparse piano introduce “Pedals”, the album’s first track.  I close my eyes, and this is what I picture:

I’m at an old bar, meeting up with an old friend.  It’s the kind of place beloved by the regulars for all the things that a newcomer would totally miss: The vintage christmas lights stapled to the ceiling; the hodge-podge second-hand mirror mosaic that spans the wall behind the bar; the old books lined up in between liquor bottles; the hundreds of fortune-cookie fortunes laminated under the thick glass of the tabletops.  We’re sitting across from each other in an old wooden booth, banged up and refinished many times over.  He’s drinking his Yuengling, I’m sipping on my Dewar’s, and we’re fondly  reminiscing on old times.  Conversation slowly turns to the tribulations of the present, and he shares with me the bad news of an unfortunate split with a long-time girlfriend.  Before we can get into the details, we’re interrupted by the glowing swoon of music coming from the back room.  We exchange a knowing look, refresh our drinks at the bar, and head back into the bowels of the ascending din.

To our surprise, the room was almost packed.  Where all these people had come from, we had no idea.  We had been in the bar for a couple of hours, and hadn’t seen any crowds move through.  Moreover, they all seemed to be enthralled by the band, singing along with every word caterwauled in unison over the reverberating symphonic surge, which threatened to overtake the already distorted PA.  This wasn’t merely a sycophantic following either, as members of the band shared smiles and sideways-glances with the crowd as much as with each other, giving the impression that we were the only strangers in the room.  It was starting to feel like we were crashing some kind of euphoric, members-only performance that happened every week.

The song ends with applause giving way to boisterous conversation, but lasts only until the drums open the next song, which is apparently called “Brittany’s Back”, according to the girl standing next to me.  She’s Brittany.  Of course she is.  The intro recalls Del Shannon’s “Runaway”, but the chorus quickly ratchets the energy level up beyond anything Shannon ever reached. Everyone’s singing, even Brittany.  The slow 6/8 tempo of the next song dissolves the fervor, entrancing everyone into a tipsy sway, practically lifting them off their feet with the floating string crescendo.

The next few songs move from an acoustic stomp to a dreamy detour – the crowd transfixed, rapt with every melodic turn of phrase.  Some close their eyes.  Some raise their hands in the air.  As I start to wonder whether this was some kind of cult we had stumbled upon, I look to my friend – he looks glazed over, blissed-out.  Before I can ask if he’s okay, the band rips into a rollicking number complete with handclaps and tom-stomp breakdowns.  The room erupts into a bob-shimmy churn, and I find myself involuntarily nodding, a smile sneaking its way onto my face.

The show ends in a bittersweet, somewhat solemn fashion, and just as I expect everyone to move for the door, they don’t.  They just stay where they are, talking with each other, laughing, drinking.  Even the band segues seamlessly into socializing, setting their instruments down and striking up conversation.  If you just walked in, you would never know a band had just captivated the room moments earlier.  Before we leave, I pull Brittany aside and ask the incriminating question: “Who are those guys?”  She could have scoffed at my ignorance, but instead, she graciously humored me. “The Love Language.  It’s basically Stuart’s band, but when he recorded the second record, he put together a band to play with him.”  I still had questions, but I didn’t want to annoy her, so I thanked her, and my friend and I moved toward the door. Pausing, I turned to her:  “Sorry, one more thing.  Where are we?”  She looked confused.  “The bar, you mean?”  “No,” I clarified.  “The city.  What city is this?”  Looking even more perplexed, she replied slowly, uncertain: “Um… Raleigh…  North Carolina…”

Available on Merge Records

RIYL:  Cass McCombs, The Walkmen, The French Kicks, Arcade Fire, The Cloud Room, Guided By Voices

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