Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Love Language w/Evan P. Donohue and Kin Ship at The Stone Fox, 8/27/13

Posted By on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Last night's turnout at The Stone Fox wasn't anything to sneeze at — at least, not for a rock 'n' roll show on a Tuesday night. Still, The Spin only barely resisted the urge to post on various social media platforms that, you know, more people should have been there, man! North Carolina's under-sung indie-pop troupe The Love Language should only play to full houses. It just seems like each time the youngsters — Merge Records' kids in the hall, if you will — play in Nashville, they do so on a Monday, or a Tuesday, or some other godforsaken night of the week.

The Spin genuinely hates to live down to our reputation (honest, we do!), but yes, we showed up late and missed openers Kin Ship. We had to watch the season finale of Drunk History. Sue us. Anyway, the Ithaca-transplanted Kin Ship makes a Kinks-informed sort of pop-centered, sunny indie rock that is a close cousin to The Love Language, and last year's Where I Live is really, truly very good. Give it a listen. Seriously. We'll wait. Well? Exactly. It's good.

Since we discovered him a few years back, we've seen Evan P. Donohue take his post-punky, thinking man's rock 'n' roll numbers through various lineups, arrangements and incarnations. In particular, his tune "The Thing That Separates" comes to mind, as we've seen it played as a percussion-adorned Latin groover, a shimmering beach-pop ballad, a laid-back acoustic exploration, and here as a tight, invigorated, up-tempo pop song. It seems Donohue has sifted through the various versions of his bands and arrangements, skimming off the excess and sticking with the most potent bits. Now playing as a power trio — Coley Hinson's walking bass lines bolstering the songs well — it seems EPD is done experimenting and ready to just deliver unique, post-Elvis (Costello, that is) rock 'n' roll with infectious vocal melodies, jazzy chords and the occasional lounge-y monologue. "California Sunshine" was played as an instrumental number, which highlighted the song's surfy, sunshiny-by-design riffs, but we always liked the vocals on that one. It's just as well. The heartstring-plucking vocals on "Tell Me, Sara" more than made up for it. Also, Donohue admittedly just wanted to play with his new phaser guitar pedal for most of the set, so it was an opportunity to do that.

Every single body on the premises — most of which were scruffy, young, not necessarily well-bathed but definitely prettier than average — flooded in toward the stage as The Love Language played their first note. Maybe more people should love this band, but at least those who do really do. The contingent of Ithaca kids down front dancing and smiling broadly proved that. The set was front-loaded with mostly new material — the dreamy, well-arranged pop movements of last month's Ruby Red. We hear that the new record was scrapped a time or two before completion (we can't confirm this, by the way, as we didn't get the chance to talk to the band ourselves), but we can say for certain that, whatever the process, principal member Stuart McLamb & Co. landed on a final product that melded their established knack for crafting sunny pop songs out of reverby madness with a new-found sense of ambitious production. Live, though, the aesthetic is still a shambolic wash of shimmering guitars, grand key parts, tight vocal harmonies, splashy cymbals and lithe bass lines.

"Brittany's Back" from Libraries remains an impossibly infectious bounce-along number. It was The Spin's personal Song of the Summer when it came out back in 2010, but seeing as how it's summer now and the song is still excellent, what the hell, we'll nominate it again. A certain unnamed freelance photographer of ours went to fetch the band shots just as they dove into the urgent, bass-driven thumper "First Shot," after which McLamb proclaimed that the band had "about 30 more songs" for us. By our count, the set list landed at something like 20 or 21, and it certainly flew by swiftly.

The crowd thinned a bit by the set's halfway point, and several sweat-drenched shirts and one broken Telecaster string later, an excited young chap was buying us a lukewarm shot of gin. "Oh god damn it," we thought to ourselves. "We forgot it's a Tuesday night." But anyway, Ruby Red's "Calm Down" is so good. Like, life-affirmingly so (if we may be hyperbolic for a moment), in the same way that a really good Spector or Beach Boys arrangement is life-affirmingly good. Just ask the couple who looked like they'd gotten lost on the way to Bonnaroo and were dancing maniacally throughout the whole set without a single break. Seriously, they were like a couple out of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, before they get all exhausted and ghoulish-looking. Nobody here gets that reference, do they?

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