All in the family

(Hardly Art; 2009)

Last we heard from Washington, D.C. songwriter Sam Simkoff, his bedroom pop project Le Loup had put out a fairly interesting, albeit somewhat incomplete, debut, The Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations’ Millennium General Assembly. Two years have elapsed since the release of that verbosely titled effort and what was a largely solo engine has shifted into full-band gear; the outfit is now a healthy sextet, or to be trite, a family.
The influx of bodies launches some tunes to stately sublimity, while drowning others in congested composition.
The first three songs are fairly indicative of the dichotomy in place: woolly opener “Saddle Mountains” unfurls in a delightful marching band fashion. Orchestral flourishes and solemn banjo strums alternate in measured succession, seamlessly switching from grand to gaunt. “Beach Town” follows and the first faults are revealed as each party tugs on the reins of direction. The number is dragged through musical mud, becoming heavier with every passing note. When Simkoff attempts to break through with his contribution of slender vocals, it fails to reach the surface.
Waiting in the wings is “Grow,” effortless in its gossamer grace, adorned with winsome “oohs” and “aahs.” The six-piece is most compelling when delving into these inviting caves, recalling a more pastoral Department Of Eagles sharing drinks with The Incredible String Band.
The remainder of this effort maintains this contrast, proving on one hand that there is strength in numbers, but rendering that strength dubious on the other. Occasionally, this duality is contained within the same tune. “Go East” features would-be enchanting harmonies that are too slow and too low. Despite the promise here, it is toppled by the palpitating arrangements.
Familiarizing itself with the tendencies, likes, and dislikes of all involved, Le Loup is balancing growing pains with immediate payoffs on its second full-length. While they do come together some of the time, they don’t always chime at the opportune moment.

Trial Track: “Beach Town”

Le Loup will be playing at Il Motore on Oct. 14.


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