Over the past two weeks I have been relentlessly and pleasurably listening to the new The Love Language album Ruby Red. The idiosyncrasies of my device being what they are each listen of Ruby Red has been followed by listening to the previous The Love Language album Libraries, and such juxtaposition has provided great insights: such as, how the method of recording (Ruby Red having been done over a span of time at different studios as opposed to Libraries having been confined to one location) has produced a different tone, or feeling for the album.
But such textural or aural differences are just that, surface comparisons. I think the biggest difference and most interesting one between the past effort and this new one is a reference point, in that Libraries had a wall of sound production quality to it which brought to one's ear hints of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys as well as a great Roy Orbison vibe. Ruby Red, while still having some of the qualities, especially in songs like "Kids" and "Hi Life", seems to reference in more songs a late 1980's post-new wave sound found in bands like Icicle Works, The Fixx or even in some ways, pre-crap Simple Minds. Songs like "First Shot", which might be my favorite here for the guitar work, an irresistible lead line, and backing vocals, take that sound and modernize it in a way that makes it fresh and new while hinting to the past with the interplay between guitar and synth lead lines. "Golden Age" seems the song to bridge best between where The Love Language was with Libraries and where they (meaning mainly Stuart McLamb) are headed with Ruby Red having a lush sound, but deriving that lushness more from synth swells than from piling on non-electronic instruments.
None of which is to imply that the little things that made Libraries such an intoxicating blend of sounds is absent here. Ruby Red is still stuffed with those elements, such as on "For Izzy" which seems to have a Theremin lead line at the beginning which fades out as the song progresses to be replaced by strings (violin? viola?) and has sneaking thru the song, a plinking toy piano sound which rides just barely on the surface, but is there in such a way as to demonstrate that the song would've been lacking without it. And that is the point with Ruby Red, it is the small moments compiled in the production of a strong suite of songs which make the music grow and expand, and just as with life, it is a compilation of these moments which like a beautifully tracked song, mixed together, became the radiant sounds of a just ripe fruit.
Ruby Red by The Love Language is out now from Merge Records.
A digital download was provided for review.