erasing clouds

The Lucksmiths, Warmer Corners

reviewed by dave heaton

I've said it before, and I'll say it a thousand times more: The Lucksmiths have a unique mastery of the art of writing a song. Their grasp on melody, on hooks, on details, on making a song feel sad and beautiful and optimistic at the same time, is unmatched. And that's not even getting into their lyrics. Mostly written by guitarist Marty Donald, and mostly sung by drummer Tali White, their lyrics display a grasp on language that's uncommon in pop music, while perfectly capturing emotions anyone alive knows well.

On Warmer Corners, the latest Lucksmiths album, those emotions are mostly the loneliness, nostalgia, confusion that come after a relationship falls apart. The things we do to forget people, the things that make us remember, the things we think we should have said or not said.

The Lucksmiths' last album, Naturaliste felt especially emotion-charged; they achieved that mostly by slowing their music down, filling out the sound of the songs with more strings and other instruments, and by writing lyrics that were especially open-hearted, and a bit less reliant on clever wordings. On Warmer Corners they're doing all of these things again, but with one key difference: they're picking up the pace. These songs generally have the fun, bouncy feeling of the Lucksmiths' most classic summer anthems, yet they also have the richer atmosphere and heightened emotions of Naturaliste. In other words, it's the best of all worlds, perhaps their most satisfying album yet.

With a fourth member, guitarist/organist Louis Richter, joining the core trio of Donald, White and bassist Mark Monnone, and a handful of other musicians helping with trumpet, violin, saxophone, cello, pedal steel, and other instruments, Warmer Corners has a full sound that complements the emotional impact of the songs. This shines through on brilliant ballads like "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now", an instant classic, but also on more upbeat numbers like the great opener "A Hiccup in Your Happiness."

Another of the album's many gems is the first single, "The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco". It's catchy and filled with yearning, with lush strings perfectly meshing with soulful guitar and impassioned words which inquire about whether a loved one is coming back or has moved on to a new chapter of her life. Before Warmer Corners the band released a CD EP with that song, Warmer Corners's snappy "Young and Dumb," the sad and pretty B-side "The Winter Proper" and a fine cover of The Bee Gees' classic "I Started a Joke."

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently ran an article on "literary rock" which highlighted the Decemberists, the Mountain Goats and a few others as particularly literary bands. By 'literary' they mostly meant 'they read books and reference them in their songs'… but if you're really looking for a band whose music carries the weight and depth of a good novel or short story, while still offering all the simple pleasures a pop song should (you can hum it, carry it around in your head, sing it badly at karaoke nights), look to the Lucksmiths. Their Warmer Corners offers everything I would want in an album, which is why I plan to play it again and again and again and again…until their next one comes out.


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