Rating: B-Ah, the sophomore album. When a band's debut meets with some success, as in the case of Le Loup's debut album, 2007's The Throne of the Third Heaven of The Nation's Millennium General Assembly, it leaves a world full of possibilities - and potential pitfalls. There is a delicate balance between evolving from the original sound and departing from it entirely. Many of the great first albums were followed by let-down second albums, and many of the great second albums were made by bands with uninspiring first albums.
Le Loup is trying hard to strike a fine balance here. The serpentine melodies of Throne are back, this time augmented with more harmonies and African-style polyrhythms. The touring band has changed considerably (see my review of their recent Boston concert), with three previous members departing. Largely gone is auteur Sam Simkoff's banjo, though a sampled five-string does make some appearances in "Morning Song" and "Go East." In short, they haven't thrown out the original formula, but there have been changes.
I wanted to like this album more than I do. I like it fine; it's got beautiful harmonies and arrangements, and some of the tunes are great - "Sherpa," in particular, is the kind of tune that will stick in your head for days. It's fun, and pretty, and catchy, and tasteful - and if it didn't follow Throne, and its existential creepiness, maybe I would have liked it more. I listened to Family again and again, waiting to have something grab me like "Planes Like Vultures" and especially "I Had a Dream I Died" - and it didn't happen. This is a good record, but not an arresting one.
I suspect, months down the line, I'll have one of the tunes come on shuffle and it will strike me in a way that it did not over the past few weeks, and I will re-listen to the whole album and it will be like hearing it anew. Until then ... here's where I'm at.
Buy it from Amazon (MP3 Format)
Le Loup Site