Love as Laughter Laughter’s Fifth

[Sub Pop; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: indie rock, pop, literate
Others: Neil Young, Wilco, Pavement

Far be it from me to criticize musicians for being too exploratory or experimental with their work, but sometimes I just need a great collection of quirky songs to fortify my mental state rather than disturb or confront it. Great soothing tunesmiths of the rock world like Neil Young and, more recently, Jeff Tweedy have provided such albums before, and now, with Laughter's Fifth, Sam Jayne of Love as Laughter can formally be added to this list.

While I've enjoyed previous albums by the group, they've had the rougher edge of a garage band, leading me to overlook the intricacies of the songs in favor of concentrating on the rawness of the playing. Many of these songs still have an undeniably rough edge like "Every Midnight Song," which starts out as a sad little ballad and blossoms into a blistering rock assault in its final stretch; but there is no one solitary sound mix that dominates the album. The opening track, "In Amber," swaggers along with a bluesy confidence that cleverly belies Jayne's questioning of his own relevance. In fact, this mix of intentions, with the music projecting an emotional state infinitely more stable than the lyrics, seems to be the only major constant. Jayne is a lyricist with the cynical wit of a Stephen Malkmus, but rather than pointing that cynicism outward, he uses it to cut himself down a notch or two.

Appearing four years after Love as Laughter's last release, Laughter's Fifth shows that the band hasn't suffered from its decreased activity. With a more subdued and assured sound than their previous albums, this new entry into their canon shows that Jayne still has a lot of interesting things to say about the follies of his life. Consequently, this album rewards multiple listens, with songs drawing me closer each time -- the casio charm of "Pulsar Radio" or ironically peppy "I'm a Ghost" becoming two of my later favorites -- giving it the potential to become an album of classic status. And heck, with the featured appearance of "Dirty Lives" on The O.C., there's no telling how large an audience this album might reach.

1. In Amber
2. I Won't Hurt You
3. Fool Worship! Idol Worship!
4. "Survivors"
5. Every Midnight Song
6. Dirty Lives
7. I'm a Ghost
8. Canal Street
9. Pulsar Radio
10. Corona Extra
11. Makeshift Heart

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