In the beginning, there is a voice. Sara Lucas' voice is the clear starting point for every song on Life of Love. It's rich and vibrant, with a clarity that allows her to add subtle shading. Much of the time, she sounds very close to Maria Muldaur (Midnight at the Oasis).
While the vocals define Callers' sound, their music is much more than just a nice setting. The songs vary from jazzy folk to a reverbed early '60s pop (think Sleep Walk), but there are plenty of other interesting sounds, like Jefferson Airplane's folky psychedelia or Adrian Belew style pop. Ryan Seaton and Don Godwin create wide open spaces of sound that allow for possibility. The nuanced arrangements aren't as flashy as the singing, but they're every bit as important. The accompaniment on the title track, Life of Love, is perfect -- simple bass countered by arpeggiated guitar and percussive guitar fills and a loose, jazzy drum beat
The touchstone track is a cover of Wire's Heartbeat. The original builds on a heartbeat throb, with breathy vocals dropped like stones into pond. It's an anxious mantra, grasping for calm. Callers take the tune into a bluesy Joan Armatrading space. Subtle shifts in the guitar arrangement add a lot of depth without being too overt. The overall feeling is more upbeat and slightly dreamy. They've drained the angst and transformed the song without simplifying or dumbing it down.
Dreamy sounds pervade the album, from the uptempo, jazzy vibe of Glow to the moody build and decay of Young People. My favorite track, though, is Roll, which starts with a Pavement style guitar intro, but then it shifts into a Jefferson Starship feel like Have You Seen the Stars Tonight. The lyrical imagery and supporting musical shifts are exquisite.
This transplanted New Orleans trio has a lot to offer. Life of Love is good on the first listen, but each time I find more sparks of tiny perfection. It's much like a well made Kölsch.