Loving

If I Am Only My Thoughts

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    8
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On their first full-length album, If I Am Only My Thoughts, the Canadian trio Loving create an unbroken mood of careful tenderness and fragile beauty across slightly over a half-hour's worth of home-cooked indie pop. They never raise their voices above a whisper, the instruments are gently strummed, pressed, plucked, and struck, and the songs all hit the sweet spot in between resigned melancholy and sweet hopefulness. The group blend acoustic guitars with chorus-coated electrics, layer pianos and synths, add the occasional string section (both real and Mellotron-provided), and dial the drums way down in the mix in pursuit of a sound that's both utterly relaxed and intricate enough to hold the listener's attention at all times. Jesse Henderson's intimate, plainspoken vocals also serve to draw people in. Tracks like "Nihilist Kite Flyer," which bops along gently like finely aged soft rock; the sparsely jangling "Lately in Another Time"; the electric piano-led late-night ballad "Simple Moon"; and the title track, with its slide guitar swoops and philosophical musings, are fine examples of how the band calibrate the various sonic elements perfectly. There are bits of burnished vintage British folk in the mix ("Only She Knows"), lo-fi weirdness that feels like early Smog ("A Mirror for Two Voices"), a little bit of baroque Beach Boys (the lovely instrumental "January"), and loads of broken-hearted singer/songwriter blues that brings to mind Elliott Smith at his most direct, especially on the album's finest song, "Visions." It's a heady mix of influences and approaches for a band to juggle, especially so early in their career, but Loving do it gracefully. They are skilled at crafting tunes that if extracted from the rest of the play list sound like first-rate examples of modern bedroom-made pop and also are able to fit the individual songs together perfectly as if they were building a Lego set of restrained melancholy. If I Am Only My Thoughts is the work of a band already at the top of their game, and anyone looking for music that wraps them in a warm blanket of intricate sound and a calming embrace of restrained emotion could do a whole lot worse.

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