Le Loup Family

[Hardly Art; 2009]

Styles: A few folks who decided to apply the lessons learned from Animal Collective instead of trying to rewrite “Banshee Beat” seven or eight times over.
Others: Animal Collective, Dead Man’s Colour (just kidding)

Forget pictures: album titles can represent more than expected. Case in point: D.C. avant-pop outfit Le Loup, whose 2007 debut, The Thorne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, sounded as sonically indecisive as its title was heedlessly arcane. Hushed wisps of folk rubbed against electro-acoustic experimentation in manners both pleasing and grating – and the inconsistency of the album’s musical themes did little to dissuade claims of unearned pretension.

It’s tempting, then, to read into the name of Le Loup’s second effort, Family, and expect a more pared-down, focused sound. While the band hasn’t completely stripped down its instrumentation – if anything, it's become more wooly and expansive – Family showcases a band that’s become more precise with its intentions without losing sight of its large-size aspirations.

If ceaseless Sufjan Stevens references dogged the somewhat inexplicable hype surrounding The Thorne, then Family is bound to draw comparison to Feels-era Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear. Such comparisons may come off as lazy, but they’re also well-earned; the smooth croons on “Go East” and the woodsy encapsulating sprawl of closer “A Celebration” pleasantly recall the knottier moments of the Griz’s Yellow House, while the pitched shouts in “Forgive Me” should easily please those looking for a post-Merriweather fix.

Thankfully, Family is composed of more than mere indie pastiche, thanks in large part to the band’s now-fully-realized penchant for recurring themes and movements. The rich vocal tones and swaying melody of “Beach Town” are revisited at leisure throughout Family, creating a strong thematic backbone. The album is expertly sequenced as well, with the chanting Tropicália of “Grow” serving as a dip into Family’s swampy midsection, and the aforementioned “A Celebration” finishing out the album’s backend by getting lost in a forest of chants and drum patterns.

Family is a work of purpose, from a band whose previously wandering attention-spans rendered any chance of artistic success accidental. Brevity in album titles, it turns out, can lead to satisfying results.

1. Saddle Mountain
2. Beach Town
3. Grow
4. Morning Song
5. Family
6. Forgive Me
7. Go East
8. Golden Bell
9. Sherpa
10. Neahkahnie
11. A Celebration

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