Baby Grand
Merge Records

Overdub obsessive and genre dilettante Stuart McLamb is the primary member of The Love Language, and all records under this name are unquestionably filtered through his many devotions, whims, and personal circumstances.

A dude whose narrative seems to be “always in crisis”, McLamb moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to shake off a period of lackluster creative energy in Raleigh, and The Love Language’s fourth album, Baby Grand, was recorded during a layover period in Virginia. The record skitters from the bursting-at-the-seams rapture of Phoenix, to the broody bluster of The Walkmen, leaving behind the sixties pop and tambourine-tinged tunes of earlier albums. This late-aughts aesthetic isn’t especially fresh, and some moments land better than others.

Baby Grand is what McLamb called a “Frankenstein record” of additional tracks and edits built on the frame of those original demos, a notable point that contradicts the lush and polished sound of the album. Paradoxically, the moments that feel the most authentic, true, and heartfelt are the songs that have the most sheen and superficial glam. All falsetto vocals, analog synths, and funky bass, single “Juiceboxx” is charming, while the lyrics of “Shared Spaces” have enough moody grit to anchor the song’s fluttery electro-pop.

Less compelling is the cringingly earnest acoustic strumming of ballad “Southern Doldrums” and the exuberant opener, “Frames,” wherein tinkling keyboards explode on top of pumping drums on top of McLamb’s overwrought wailing. Baby Grand as a whole mimics the feelings of a cross-country move or a life-shaking break-up. It’s shifty and malleable; it’s a little emotionally unstable; it tries on new personalities with varying levels of success.