The Canadian band Loving’s sparse three-album discography has been enough to create an atmosphere for listeners where fear, love, anger, hopelessness, and faith simultaneously coexist. They released their album “If I Am Only My Thoughts” on Jan. 31, 2020, making it their first LP after “Loving,” which was published in 2016.
After “Loving,” they remade a band they co-created, named the Jons, and released two other albums, “Serfs of Today” and “At Work On Several Things” in 2016. In 2017, Loving member David Parry collaborated with the band Elan Noon to record the album “Have A Spirit Filled,” which was released in 2017.
From the very beginning, the album is fundamentally defined by its subtleties. Each song has a fairly predictable acoustic guitar track reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, coupled with the exhausted vocals of band members David Parry, Lucas Henderson and Jesse Henderson.
Yet on “Write a River,” there is a hint of accordion, which textures enough to cause the vivid sensation of a spring rain in a cobblestone town, or a scenic frame of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” In “A Mirror For Two Voices,” there is a spinning ratchet, which provides the rhythm of a tropical dance groove to the otherwise reverbed and loosely dreamy instrumental. All along, they dance on the border of blatant antiquity, yet among the slide guitars of George Harrison, and the vibrato guitar of Jimi Hendrix, they manage nearly always to divert the assumption with subtleties fit for the future.
They focus lyrically on the subjects of disconnection and sadness. In “Nihilist Kite Flyer,” they conclude that the “need to be defined” by meaning is trivial, saying “though I’ve always wanted an answer / Now I know better.” The ending lines, “Or am I just the one / Drifting too close to the sun” even implies a fear that putting one’s heart into the search for meaning is dangerous and could cause emotional collapse, like Icarus’s wax wings melted as he neared the sun.
In“If I Am Only My Thoughts,” they sing “Everything I think and do is just a masquerade. There is even an instrumental song later in the LP, titled “Growing Flowers by Candlelight,” keeping with the metaphor of not being able to flourish because of melancholy and meaninglessness. Yet in “Simple Moon,” there is a longing for the innocence when “There was no need for anything more / Than just a simple moon.” In “Write A River,” they are “Waiting patiently / For the rain to stop falling,” or waiting for the melancholy to pass.
The makeshift world of bedroom studios and a strong connection to the instrumental trends of the past provide an inherent warmth to their process, like the sonic equivalent of using a disposable film camera. A Fujifilm from CVS might lack the high-pixel coverage or accurate color balance of a new Canon DSLR, but its imperfection and cheapness seem to be the perfect medium to capture the authenticity of memories and moments. It is disposable film exposures that cover the walls of bedrooms, reminding people of the subtle novelties of those experiences. They catalogue moments that speak for themselves and need nothing more than to be captured by a humble $10 camera.
Loving binds itself to real life. Their work will not go platinum and it will not be played at the Super Bowl, but it will be heard by a select few, who value it like they do their disposable Fujifilm. They are the ornaments that help construct those subtly profound memories that will be pinned up in the corkboard minds of listeners.
Without a panicked thirst for popularity, and without fear, they seem to exclusively advocate for recognizing the liminal and forgotten emotion of a scene. They are the shutter that captures the subtle novelty in unspoken and unforgettable moments. They wield the mammoth weapon of empathy to do their part in abating disconnection by sharing their story, and promoting an innocence that is lost with loneliness, and can only be found with truly selfless and loving relationships.