Langhorne Slim & the Law pulsate from the first notes of their new album, The Spirit Moves. The frantic bass drum kick of the opening title track sets the tone of an artist trying to get it all in: banjo and horns and feedback and exuberance.
There’s a sense of a man laying out his heart with no apologies.
Langhorne Slim has always seemed like a dude with a pretty comfortable perspective of things. Even heartbreak, as 2012’s The Way We Moved showed. But The Spirit Moves shows Langhorne Slim out of the woods — maybe momentarily, maybe for good. That easy tension is what makes Slim, his band, The Law, and his music so compelling. He’s a guy you can watch from the floor of a crowded concert hall or in a dark room by yourself and think, “I’d buy anything this guy is selling.”
As the album shifts seamlessly into “Changes,” it’s confirmed: this is the wide-open heart of a songwriter and a band possessed by possibility. “I’m going through changes, through all of the strangeness,” he sings, with a lilt and hope.
In a recent teaser set in the Philadelphia area that gives him his name, Slim’s performance hinted of the confessional exhilaration of the soon-to-be-dropping album. Lots of falling to knees, lots of direct pleas to the crowd with hips and jutting chin. And it all seems a natural and giddy part of the show. Even in the few awkward moments of the album like the early-‘60s-style number “Whisperin’,” Slim’s somewhat cheeky, somewhat earnest, and somewhat scary delivery draws you in, warms you up, sets you back down, and leaves you wondering what just happened.
If The Way We Moved gave a glimpse of the fully released potential of an artist, The Spirit Moves is the promise fulfilled. In songs like “Wolves,” where he annunciates like he needs you to hear every syllable of the story, the vocal track is right out in front. There’s no muddy, uneven, buried mix anywhere here. No apologies.
The abandon of a song like “Strangers” does what the best pop songs are meant to do: make you joyously bang your head long enough to hear the undercurrent of fear and hope that connects you to the ether. If it’s not picked up as the theme to something — anything — the industry has no ears.
The comforting drumming of long-time collaborator Malachi DeLorenzo grounds the proceedings like a heartbeat. And the rest of the excellent Law sets down an understated fervor that Slim shimmies on top of. There’s more steady depth, conviction, and resonance in his voice than the sometimes tinny moments of earlier offerings. On The Spirit Moves, Langhorne Slim sounds like a man fascinated by and satisfied with happiness, or unhappiness.
I lost my direction, from the day I was born
I felt disconnected since they cut the cord
If I learned my lesson
To find me some peace
Cause I need protection from this heart on my sleeve.
“Airplane” might be the best of the voice-catching, full-frontal emotion that Slim somehow pulls out of himself. It could be a showstopper — it fills with those little tropes that crack your resolve:
Some people live trying to be forgiven
That might be life, but that ain’t living.
This is the album that you recommend to all segments of your friends without reservation. If you’ve got half a heart, it’s likely to break and pulse and soar.