The big concern going in: How does Love Songs stack up to SLC's past studio stuff, not to mention its live performances? That worry dissipates, however, after the first five seconds of the raw, energetic "Kid in the Corner." It's a darn good opener to a completely endearing album.
Sure, there are some general stylistic reference points here (the Pixies, Modest Mouse and the Grifters, for three), but comparative references don't capture the essence of SLC's sound. One has to describe Love Songs on its own terms. This is a stubbornly intelligent, beautiful, somewhat sarcastic pop-rock CD, with a great sense of melody and an acute sense of when to rock out (as demonstrated on the nicely building "Lemme Go Home"). The band puts its own stamp on everything it plays, even a brilliantly different cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" (which is almost unrecognizably jangly, but still great).
There's a quiet C&W influence here, abetted by the rough, cigarette-coated vocals of Trey Pool and Thane Matcek. Yang to this yin are the band's odd timing, its lyrics (just this side of nonsensical) and Mari Pool's angelic singing. The droney, careful indie-pop of "Nettle" and "Hallowed Haze" are showcased right alongside the disjointed "Twist" and the nearly perfect rock of "Clumsy Hands." But it never feels thrown together; the whole CD flows on its own energy. The album's lo-fi production (far removed from most of Ojet's other recent releases) serves the music well, giving it all a warm, friendly feel. There's a strong resemblance to All Transistor's Parts, Matcek's solo project (heck, "Trick Live" is a new version of a song from Parts, if memory serves), but where that disc, though good, seemed polished yet somehow half-finished, Love Songs is the opposite -- rough-edged yet more complete in feel.
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So here's the short version: damn fine album by an incredible band. When the liner notes offer up SLC's address in case "you feel the album is too long," the only logical response is "yeah, right."