Monday, June 13, 2011

Album Review: The Ladybug Transistor - Clutching Stems

Throughout their 16-year career, The Ladybug Transistor’s records have been incredibly consistent in quality and style. Clutching Stems subtly departs from the pastoral style the band has cultivated over six previous albums.

This new album is more somber and even urgent at times. This isn’t music to lie in the grass to like past albums; it’s music to ride a bike to. The lush, organic arrangements the band is known for remain, but here the band puts them into motion.

Listening to Clutching Stems is a different experience than listening to previous Ladybug Transistor records because of this added momentum. All of the bands LPs fly by. It was because the listener would lose themselves and zone out, but Clutching Stems flies by because it more actively engages the listener and makes them zone in.

The Ladybug Transistor take advantage of this engagement on “Oh Christina” with a natural sound opening that is jarring and transportive. It sets the listener up to feel it in the gut when lead singer Gary Olson cries repeatedly “Oh Christina!”

This leads into an excellent back end of the album. Sad, but sultry solo trumpet pulls the listener closer as it introduces “Caught Don’t Walk.” “Breaking up on the Beat” is brilliantly composed with surprising oboe interruptions, beautiful string support and catchy melody.

As the fantastic final three tracks of Clutching Stems played, I was left speechless. What seemed like subtle departure now felt much more significant. It became clear The Ladybug Transistor have joined a growing list of Merge artists releasing their best work this year.

The Ladybug Transistor will play King’s Barcade on Saturday, July 16. Tickets are $8 in advance.

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