New Music Enthusiast’s Club: i am Love

i am Love.coverarti am Love – i am Love

Think of all the kids you grew up with.  The ones taking music lessons after school.  The kids tinkering away on the piano, practicing their recitals.  The kids spending their afternoons learning the cello, or the violin, or the trumpet.  The band dorks.  The punk brats making a ruckus in their parents’ garages, banging and strumming away on their beginner’s drum kits and electric guitars.  The younger brothers and sisters rifling through their older siblings’ record collections and singing along in their bedrooms.  Think of those kids gathering together to create music, a circus folk rock troupe with flashes of Americana, post-punk, classic rock, new wave, and the Avant Garde all playing harmoniously like a choir of art school misfits.  A saxophone here.  A viola there.  A grand aural collage of different sounds, textures, instruments, and influences.  How glorious it must be.  And so we have the self-titled debut album from Philadelphia’s i am Love, a collection of pop songs created by a vast array of instrumentation and open, bleeding hearts.

Consisting of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Christopher, bassist Will Whitmire, drummer Kris Jackson, and a constantly revolving cast of additional players and shakers, i am Love weave a line through American music, echoes of any number of genre or scene permeating their sound like history just begging to be repeated.  The band have obvious parallels to groups like Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists, or Arcade Fire, but maintain their own identity with their forays into psychedelic waters and with Christopher’s howling vocals.  They never sound like they’re aping anybody.  Christopher’s reflective and contemplative lyrics add an additional layer to the band’s soaring sound, keeping things tight, warm, and personal.  There’s something life affirming about someone using music to overcome their personal baggage, regardless of how tragic, or in the case of Joshua Christopher, incarceration and a harrowing accident.  Music can be medicine.  Music can be therapy.

With i am Love, that’s kind of the point.

The album begins with “Pillar of Salt,” a track that sounds like a lamenting, somber ode, Christopher’s vocals fragile and melancholy, until that horn section kicks in to let you know everything is going to be okay…everything will work itself out in the end.  “Swiftness” comes in like an art rock steam train, a post-punk beat and guitar riff paired with reverbed singing vocals and subdued, warbly spoken word sections.  The band sounds like they’re playing in a long and endless tunnel, providing every pulse and throb for your road trip to the other side.  They are your travel companions.  They are your soundtrack.  Experimental explorations continue with “Ghost in the Hallway,” Christopher sounding like a revived and focused Ian Curtis fronting some kind of underground indie rock super group as they confront their collective fates in the netherworld.  It’s the sound of spitting into the abyss.  Things lighten up a little over the next couple of tracks as the band touch on driving synthy new wave (“Pants on Fire”) and warped folk music (“Stinkbug Serenade”), before collapsing with the down tempo, demented doo-wop of “Can I.”  For every soaring, open-armed, all-is-love theme the band throws out into the ether, there’s always a return to Earth, a return to self-doubt and examination, a crash.  At the risk of sounding pandering or pretentious, it’s art as life.  The band round the album out on some high notes, channeling their inner blues rock troubadours with “Ace of Cups,” and then venturing into vaudevillian finesse with sing-along closer “Finest Hour.”  Bad things happen.  But so do good things.  And you’re still alive.  So sing.

Take a listen to “Pillar of Salt” here and then watch the video for “Ghost in the Hallway.”

I am Love’s self-titled debut is due out in January of next year.  Keep your eyes and ears open.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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