An infectiously ramshackle tear through some honest Americana.
Over the past decade or so, there haven’t been too many singer-songwriters who have made consistently good records. Somehow, Langhorne Slim & the Law never delivered anything but, yet he consistently slipped under the radar. It’s also worth noting that none of his records were truly great. All of that should change with The Way We Move, which is one of the most joyous listening experiences I’ve had with a full-length all year. While it may not break him out right away, it’s got enough staying power to keep him in a poised position to do so eventually. It’s a fantastic full-length that straddles the blurry folk-rock/americana genre line and is anchored by his whiskey-battered rasp.
The Way We Move begins with the unbelievable one-two punch of the records title track and “Bad Luck”. The former is an uptempo barn-burner about thriving on chaos and uncertainty. The song’s unique brand of surprisingly grounded sunny optimism is emphasized perfectly by the acoustic instrumental palette and punctuated by a brass section. Everything except the concept and the horns carry over to “Bad Luck”, which has an open-roads swing and defiance to it. “I was born with a thorn in my soul, sometimes it hurts / I might not got much but I know what it’s worth” sings Slim in his signature rasp, perfectly content with any misgiving and injecting the song with a raw honesty that suits the music itself extremely well.
While “Fire” slows the pace of the opening two tracks, it certainly doesn’t diminish the quality and proves the band is fully capable of incorporating vintage soul influence. Swirled organs and a restrained Menomena-esque horn section drive the song towards a powerhouse ending and lead into “Salvation” beautifully. “Salvation” is The Way We Move‘s first really quiet moment and places the focus on Slim’s songwriting abilities and reveal an often-overlooked talent. “I want to hold you but my hands are cold / I meant to catch you but I moved too slow / I hate to leave but I know / it’s time to go” goes one particularly memorable chorus, which demonstrates Slim’s penchant for strong writing about the temporary and the unknown.
Ensuing track “On the Attack” recalls Ben Harper in his finest mode and slows the albums pace even more and puts it in danger of derailing into a scattershot sequencing. Then the records shortest track, “Someday”, manages to become a perfect bridge between the albums opening and middle third and as such stands out as one of the strongest moments. The urgency of the opening two tracks is returned with the shuffling “Great Divide” that breathes even more life into The Way We Move before Slim and his band find the perfect balance between their slow and fast modes with the mid-tempo “Just A Dream”. Then the album softly retreats into one of its quietest moments with the devastating “Song for Sid” that brings everything to a hushed halt in just the right place. It marks The Way We Move‘s most unexpectedly powerful and poignant moment and is a requiem of sorts for the titular character.
“Found My Heart” gradually, appropriately, brings some fire back to the proceedings and continuously builds its way to an explosive and abrupt ending. “Wild Soul” is the sound of smoke clearing and things winding down and includes both a beautiful horn and whistle section. When the two sections overlap at the end, it creates something that seems familiar but is new territory for the band- and it suits them well. “Two Crooked Hearts” is their last wild trail-blazer and one of the album’s best. It’s a two-minute tear about foolish love and crooked minds. The Way We Move closes itself out with two ballads. The first of which, “Coffee Cups” is almost entirely vocals and guitar apart from some well-place chime drones. It’s a beautiful track that touches, once again, on resilience.
The gospel-tinged piano-driven “Past Lives” is The Way We Move‘s final moment and it’s a stunner. “Past Lives” is a passionate ode to just living and taking everything in as it comes. No song on The Way We Move is sung with as much impassioned ferocity as “Past Lives” and it acts as a perfect closer. After the final notes had faded away, I had the distinct feeling I’d just immersed myself in a great story and, like all great stories, something worth revisiting. So I listened to The Way We Move again and once more after that. Each listen revealed new layers and instead of the impact of the songs fading, they were heightened. Don’t be surprised if this makes some surprise appearances on more than a few year-end lists. It’ll deserve the spots.
// Notes from the Road
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