The low-fi sound is a tricky one to master. On the one hand, it has the potential to be a unique, almost haunting listening experience. On the other, it often runs the risk of being dazed and slow, creating tracks that seem endless in the worst kind of way. It’s a struggle that, for better or worse, manifests itself clearly on The Love Language’s latest album, Ruby Red.
The band, which started as a one-man show for lead singer Stuart McLamb, is back with its third studio release. They’ve kept up the same washed out, suspended sound for this latest release, recalling the music of bands like Arcade Fire. However, something about the record just feels slow. McLamb’s vocals are not very powerful, and seem to mostly dissolve into the instrumentals, which sound cloudy. It has a very old time-y pace and feel, to the point where certain tracks end up sounding very schmaltzy and dated. For example, “Hi Life” features a background melody that sails along as if it came straight off an ABBA record.
The album is not a total miss however. There are times when Ruby Red puts itself on the other end of the low-fi spectrum, creating a unique and interesting sound. This is mostly when they pick up the pace and the power, adding stronger percussion and a more solid rhythm. The track “First Shot” is a great manifestation of this — McLamb’s vocals channel 80s glam rockers such as The Cure, the guitars are distorted, there is a rhythm to bob a long to, and background melodies jump rather than sail. The track is interesting — it comes off edgy, primal and broken, and ends too soon.
Tracks like this serve as proof that McLamb and The Love Language do know what they are doing — or at least, what they could be doing. It’s just a shame they don’t take that knowledge to its fullest potential.