More Sound Than Statement
There’s an in-and-out studio mentality, often the discipline of punk bands, that gets a record made and released as soon as possible so as to allow for other endeavors. The results can suffer grossly, depending on the cohesion and experience of the group. The Beatles’ Please Please Me is quite possibly the finest execution of this mode, with total studio time clocking in at less than 10 hours and holding up to this day as an absolute masterpiece. But as they had been regularly playing multiple sets a night for a few years, they had been doing some “rehearsing,” hadn’t they? Bottom line: It pays to do what suits a particular band.
The Love Language is the other side of the coin. Essentially the only solid member of the “band,” Stuart McLamb could likely only bang out a record if he had about twenty Stuarts and a wealth of instruments. The man is specific and knows what he wants, and much of this is layers, layers and layers. The solution is usually to take your time, demo the hell out of the songs and gather up as many musicians as you can to flush it out, add it up and make the full-sounding record that your heart so desires. You might be paying a bit more for studio time, but you’ll get what you want.
Ruby Red is Stuart’s third album, and could be viewed as a sonic continuance of 2010’s Libraries. The studio has been used to its full potential here, and the sound often soars with strings, keys and horns that show that the influences stretch back into pop of the ‘60s and decades before. Stuart’s voice is frequently mixed as an instrument rather than a lyric, woven and washed in with the arrangements. This makes for a sonic wonderland, but doesn’t necessarily showcase what he’s trying to say. You will discover this happening more as you listen again and again, particularly with headphones. Ruby Red is an excellent study in arrangement, but with out the emotional impetus driving the first (and touches of the second) record, the Love Language at this point might be more of a sound than a statement.