Callers: Life of Love

The Brooklyn-by-way-of-New Orleans trio's second album is a strange and potent cross between Marissa Nadler's haunting folk and the chilly, dramatic post-rock of Louisville's '90s elite, with a touch of bayou jazz.


Life of Love

Label: Western Vinyl
US Release Date: 2010-10-12
UK Release Date: 2010-12-06

You’d be at a loss to find people on this green earth who haven’t asked themselves, at least once, what love is. The most universal answer I’ve heard: “Love is complicated”. Indeed. Love from one person to another involves two players, but the drama is often generated inside one’s own head. You can love someone and not be loved back. You can be in love with things and ideas and have great difficulty loving a human being. Love gets mixed with other emotions -- some savory, some not so much. Elaine Hatfield identified two very different kinds of love; John Lee came up with six. It’s basic -- many would say ingrained from birth -- but still thorny as all hell. I could go on and on.

Perhaps the archetypal love songs we still hear are an escape from this maddening complexity, a way to make "true love" sound as pure as it implies. But few angsty adolescents or stubborn realists want to hear them. For those who can’t stay very long in fantasyland, Callers’ second album, Life of Love, is revelatory. Essentially a three-piece, the shy New Orleans natives brought their stormy, jazzy indie rock to Brooklyn, N.Y., and recorded the album over a tumultuous year. You can hear the intensity curdling the muted din they summon, a strange and potent cross between Marissa Nadler’s haunting folk and the chilly, dramatic post-rock of Louisville’s ‘90s elite, with a touch of bayou jazz. And it’s one of the most effective records I’ve heard in a while at making love actually sound complicated.

Sara Lucas, the torch singer at the center of this whirlwind, sings in stretched, smoky syllables that are deliberately hard to put together into entire phrases, many of which continue across stanzas. But this is undoubtedly an album about love, whether the words are decipherable or not, and the vocals ring with an angular sort of passion. When words come through, nearly always in pieces, they have an abstract, surreal quality that matches Lucas’s winding intonations: “You are an easy arc”, “You walk with your arms wrapped in gold”, “ “So could we tonight ride/And I begin to roll”. I even heard an “uh-oh” somewhere in there, which may just be the single most uttered word among intimately involved people. Everything feels like a deeply personal observation, even when it isn’t -- a day in the life of someone’s love-riddled thoughts.

Lucas enjoys the perfect musical backing for her vocal style, as well as for the record’s theme. Best described as a low-budget rumble with the potential to become both quite tense and beautifully languorous -- even loungey -- it’s more voluptuous and richly involved than their debut, Fortune, and devoid of maudlin moments. It is a pleasure to catch the ornamentation all over the record, like sudden male backing vocals and light choirs that would bring tears to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s eyes. The sound’s rough timbral quality and delicate touches instantly reminded me of another Brooklyn band’s recent record: Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest. But Callers don’t show off, nor do they play easy listening. It may as well be the contorted, realistic, earthbound flipside to Veckatimest’s carefree, overly embellished getaway.

The nervier songs have more in common, sonically and thematically, with post-Riot Grrrl underdogs Scrawl and Ruby Falls than they do with Brooklyn indie. A scary and beautiful thing happens in “Roll”, the second to last song in the sequence: The choir that lit up the appropriately titled (and nearly rhyming) “Glow” appears again, pitched 100 leagues into the depths, and becomes a demonic bellow rising upward. “Young People” has a jagged, slanted rhythm and guitars that sound like fingers curling into a fist. Yet the broad range of Life of Love is one of its most impressive features. In “How You Hold Your Arms”, Lucas begins purring, “Hey, boy…” over a sweetly plucked guitar figure, and then proceeds to explore his body while building him up. Six tracks in, we finally get our "love song", and it is absolutely stunning. So it seems that even Callers believe in the power of true love, after all.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.