“Calm Down” (streaming below) is the opener from Ruby Red—the third album from Chapel Hill and Raleigh’s reliably hook-happy and heartbroken The Love Language, due via Merge Records on July 23. That’s the cover art at the top of the post.
“Calm Down” is also the first of a handful of songs on Ruby Red that finds the normally grandiose pop outfit digging into deep garage grooves, taking cues from rising Bay Area rock acts such as Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall. Stuart McLamb—the outfit’s singer, songwriter and only reliable member—seems to have been paying attention to his competition, balacing his blue-eyed pop melodies and profoundly emotional songs with hints of rock ‘n’ roll grit and tight psychedelics.
The song announces itself a with quick and meaty combo of drums and bass before building up a gauzy, jangling wall built from multiple guitar tracks. The tender touch is familiar. The surging rhythm is new, matching McLamb with a nervy and somewhat concussive backbeat that equals his own irrepressible verve. Fittingly, the song is about a relationship in which the singer never feels at ease. “You won’t let me calm down!” he shouts in the chorus, the musical momentum driving him just as hard as the lover in question. After the final chorus, the band locks into a wild, two-minute outro. Distortion solidifies into a torrent of noise as the groove escalates with Kraut-approximating intensity.
This isn’t The Love Language we’ve come to expect. It’s something bolder. Check it out: