July 10, 2011
The Sunday Session: Baroque pop from The Ladybug Transistor. Sound by Dominic Armstrong.
Since the 1990s, The Ladybug Transistor has created formalist pop-rock albums with a dreamy, articulate sound that spans decades and genres. Anchored by Gary Olson's organizing vision and restrained baritone, their music boasts intricate arrangements and soaring melodies that are at once modern and timeless.
This band's narrative holds a rich history of heartfelt collaboration, tireless devotion, quiet and outspoken romance, new arrivals, unexpected departures, achy break-ups and unspeakable loss. They have become agile at adjustment.
In 2007, the untimely passing of their beloved drummer San Fadyl left members Olson, Kyle Forester and Julia Rydholm at an unimaginable loss, struggling with a prevailing sense of "What now?" At a time where moving forward felt possibly impossible, the band quietly gathered new recruits (Mark Dzula, Eric Farber, Michael O'Neill) and embarked on writing a new album with the memory of San squarely in mind.
The resulting effort is their new release, "Clutching Stems," a lush collection of potent refrains and brought-to-one's-knees ballads. Set to an invigorated soundtrack of wave-pop arrangements, the songs detail stories of humbling heartbreak, profound longing, undoing distress, nagging regret and coming-of-age awakenings. Olson's lyrics express an overarching search to find one's voice in the face of moments that knock the wind and words right out of a person.
This new line-up has found a distinct voice that honors diverse influences and the band's own precedent sound. "Clutching Stems" assuredly underlines that while love can tear things apart, it can also capably mend them back together once again.
Bio and images courtesy of Merge Records.