Album Review: The Lunar Laugh – In the Black

By this point in our shared musical journey, gentle reader, you’ve likely discerned that the Big Stir label is a trademark of quality. Co-helmed by the passionate, dedicated and hard-working duo of Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome, Big Stir brings a remarkable amount of new music to the world on the regular. And the standard is so high that given a moment’s pause, I can’t think of a single dud among any of the label’s recent releases (well, on refection there was that one, but I didn’t review it).

None of which means I’m prepared to rubber-stamp a new release from Big Stir, nor assume without listening that it’ll hew to that very high standard. But I am certainly inclined toward expecting all of that when I receive yet another disc with the always-welcome handwritten note from Christina (how does she find the time?).

Enough about the label. In my hands this moment I have In the Black, the new album from The Lunar Laugh. Were I not to know that it’s a Big Star release, at first glance its cover art might have me thinking it’s a progressive rock album. Alas, it is not. A closer look at that cover reveals something a bit more fanciful; perhaps whimsical, even.

It’s energetic, supercharged and melodic rock and pop of the power sub-variety. Musical touchstones might include Greenberry Woods, Cheap Trick, Material Issue, Gin Blossoms…you get the idea. Throughout the album, the music consistently strikes the right balance between power-chording chug, alternarock hookiness and singer-songwriter contemplativeness. That all adds up to some great music.

The band has five or more members – it’s not immediately* clear from the detailed liner notes who’s an official member and who’s an auxiliary/guest player – but that matters less than the sum of the collective parts. At least three songwriters – variously on their own and/or in combinations – are responsible for most of the music. These are songs the listener can dig into, luxuriating in the creamy harmonies of “Allegiance,” the sharp hooks of “Born Weird” and the bouncy synth meets Sgt. Pepper vibe of “Fake it Till We Make It.” It’s all done with wit, style and precision. Recommended.

* okay: when you read more closely, it is.