Review: Love Inks – E.S.P. (2011)
Something is happening. You can never put your finger on it, nor that it is occurring until years later. It starts unknowingly when a friend or two disappears from your city. You hear word of where they end up, and it’s a conundrum. “Why?” is the most response. Then as seasons approach and seasons past, this unconscious, perhaps otherworldly-influenced movement continues until one day you realize the following: That’s it. I’m moving south.
Now that’s just my case and those of millions of others who migrated from the unbearably tolerated winters of the Midwest to likely locales such as Florida or Arizona. Sherry Leblanc did just that in leaving Chicagoland for Austin, Texas. I learned you still hold that connection to the Midwest after moving from Sherry. You also learn that the warmth of the south is something different, something otherworldly. Evenings stay mesmerizingly warm enough to induce you to sleep outdoors. What you get when you close your eyes, I would imagine, is what you hear through and through with Love Inks‘ debut album E.S.P..
When some people hear ‘dream pop’, they get a glazed over look. Others warm to the thought, growing lush with color. “Wave Goodbye” with its looped drum machine and subtly danceable bass lines take up one lane of the song’s road as Sherry’s singing and Kevin Dehan’s guitar continues at its own slower pace. Yet paradoxically neither tempo leaves the other behind in sound. It’s that phenomena that allows the album to linger leisurely and swiftly pass by without you realizing it. The album does not even top 27 minutes, but as the lead single “Blackeye” rolls by carried by Adam Linnell’s bass over Kevin’s refreshingly vintage-sounding guitar. It does not have the blindingly bright sound of an electric, but something as smooth as analog tape.
Time and time again, it’s the duration of E.S.P. that stuns. It’s short, but the present seems to pull back and slow down upon each listen. “Leather Glove”, the second longest song at only 3:34, is testament to the phenomena. The name of the band itself comes from the concept behind “Leather Glove”; burning former love letters of your ex in an attempt to allure and capture the current love interest. It’s a mysterious, drifting belief drawn from a 1934 book entitled Magica Sexualis. “Fifteen letters sent to you, and you never even cared, my love. Lighting paper into ashes […] now I’m writing out this letter for you in my special ink, my love.” It evokes a haze, the kind you would see and smell drifting in a tent in the middle of the night from a solitary candle you can’t remember who lit.
“Can’t Be Wrong,” with its hollow and bright guitar, and “Skeleton Key”‘s stunted bass thumping like a party four floors underneath you quicken an album that can initially feel languishing. The latter’s fuzzed beats give into subtle, timid guitar plucks that never quite overwhelm Sherry’s vocals, which is naturally the focus of the debut. Her voice is faintly haunting, with enough sumptuousness to make it seemingly corporal instead of as fleeting as a specter.
The album only has minor hang-ups that draw you out of the mesmerizing, uniform trance; “Down and Out” and “Rock On,” a David Essex cover. Perhaps its the placement between two rather upbeat songs, but it often is the song I find myself moving past. As a debut, E.S.P. is that sort of special that you cannot quite put to words and could easily dismiss on the surface before earnestly diving in. Its disembodied vocals haunt with an allure that draws you in for a short time before releasing you. Yet even before then, the seed is planted with “In My Dreams” and sprouted with the daybreak keys of “Too Late” that will beckon your ears back to the start; a continuous spiral making it tough to escape from Love Inks’ excellent first album.