“Someone actually released this?”
“Is this Bob Dylan?”
“Oh, for the love of God!”
These are just some of the comments that emerged as I played this in the living room on a summer Sunday morning. In pajamas, drinking tea, and checking my email listening to a disc by a band with the name the Love Letter Band, it seemed to be the perfect setting. But with fifteen tracks spread out over thirty-six minutes, the disc didn’t seem to want to end.
It’s hard to know where to begin in reviewing this disc, but let’s start with the band name. The Love Letter Band….....awwwwwwwwwwww. Isn’t just sweet? I could perhaps tolerate the name if it weren’t for the ostentatious album title, Fear Not My Brothers, Fear Not My Sisters, for I Have Seen the Future... Uh. Anyway.
The music, which inspired the Dylan comment from roommate, is typical K Records-style: intentionally lo-fi—at least, when it sounds cool to do it (which is usually when there are the least amount of instruments in the mix). The album wavers between decent production and crappy, but always keeps the earnest delivery of the collective’s songwriter, Chris Adolf, at the fore. There are also some random and seemingly pointless samples of birds chirping throughout—I’m not sure if it’s supposed to cute or deep. The Love Letter Band leans heavily on the folkie-hippie vibe that seems to be en vogue now, so just read up on any reviews of Espers or Devendra Banhart to get the obligatory list of influences that I’m not going to waste space on here. These guys can play, but when the majority of your songs barely make it past the two-minute mark, it’s hard to develop any of the ideas presented into something substantial. I was even okay with the band up until this point, but it was flipping open the lyric sheet that did it all in for me.
Adolf pretty much spells out each lyric with a mind-numbing literalness only matched by its nothingness. The first song, after the opening instrumental, at the very least announces to the listener that “I’m not tryin’ to have kitsch here / There’s no retro tongue in cheek”. It’s odd to open a disc by telling the audience that, yes, you are being sincere. But it’s the fact that these songs are about nothing (and not in the good Seinfeld way) that had me dumbfounded.
Take, for instance, the mind-expanding lyrics of “No One Has a Smile Like Yours”: “No one gives a shit about me here / I found myself alone in a great big city / And no one has a smile like yours”. Or how about the Hallmark sentiments of “My Brave Friend”: “Tears of sorrow / Will disappear without a trace / But a smile can leave cracks on your face / And tears of joy / Will fill the cracks on your face”. But nothing can possibly the match the depth and splendor of “Love Will Be My Home”: “Lord take me away / This world is not my home / I won’t need a thing / Love will be my home”.
Somebody, somewhere, I’m sure, is going to listen to this cutesy, bird chirping, acoustic guitar strumming nonsense and will be completely enamored. But I have looked into the future, and it’s not me.