Clutching Stems

Clutching Stems

by The Ladybug TransistorThe Ladybug Transistor


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For 15 years, the name Ladybug Transistor on the front of an album has been like a trademark of quality, and anyone buying one would be assured of wonderfully rich and emotional pop songs, intricately layered production, and a general feeling of radiant joy that comes from experiencing music that's pure and true. Through member changes, fads coming and going, tragedy, and renewal; the vision of Gary Olson has remained steady, and on the band's seventh album, Clutching Stems, it shows no signs of flagging. In fact, the album may rank right up there with The Albemarle Sound as their finest, most fully realized work. Made with stalwart bassist Julia Rydholm, keyboardist Kyle Forester, and new recruits Mark Dzula and Michael O'Neil on guitars and Eric Farber on drums, the record has a streamlined and cosmopolitan feel that is new to them. As in the past, lush instrumentation blankets most of the songs with a warm and cozy embrace, but this time it's not pastoral at all. The punch of the drums, occasional cold synths, and clean production conjure up city streets and late-night drives instead of suburban greenery. It's a bit of a carryover from the last album, and it's a welcome direction for the band. Honestly, the slightly cleaner, less busy, and nocturnal-sounding arrangements suit Olson's stark baritone vocals better, and when some sunshine is required, the lovely backing vocals of Frida Eklund do the trick quite nicely. Coupled with the sound of the album, the songs have a real emotional depth that is common for Olson, but somehow seem more deeply felt here. There's nothing concrete that makes it clear, it's more a feeling that comes through in the often heartbreaking words and in Olson's wounded vocals. He sounds just a tiny bit more engaged and forceful than usual and that suits him too. The break in his voice on the chorus of "Fallen and Falling," the insistence of the repeated "no's" at the end of "Oh Cristina," the sly crooning on "Breaking Up on the Beat"; these are examples of Olson's growth as a vocalist and they help make the album pretty special. It's rare for a band to keep getting better over time, especially after 15 years, but the Ladybug Transistor have done it, and whether you've been a fan the whole time or you are just discovering (or rediscovering) them with this album, there is enough good stuff here to make even the coldest-hearted music snob admit that there is music being made in 2011 that's just as good as anything made in 1965 or 1977, or any year.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/07/2011
Label: Merge Records
UPC: 0673855037721
catalogNumber: 377
Rank: 100298


  1. Clutching Stems
  2. Light On the Narrow Gauge
  3. Fallen and Falling
  4. Ignore the Bell
  5. Oh Cristina
  6. Caught Don't Walk
  7. Breaking Up On the Beat
  8. Into the Strait
  9. Hey Jack I'm On Fire
  10. Life Less True

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ladybug Transistor   Primary Artist
Michael O'Neill   Guitar,Group Member
Gary Olson   Trumpet,Vocals,Group Member
Julia Rydholm   Bass,Group Member
Heather McIntosh   Cello
Claudia Chopek   Violin
James Hindle   Background Vocals
Melanie Townsend   Violin
Frida Eklund   Vocals,Group Member
Kyle Forester   Organ,Synthesizer,Piano,Harpsichord,Group Member
Eric Farber   Percussion,Drums,Group Member
Mark Dzula   Guitar,Group Member
Julia Derosa   Oboe

Technical Credits

Gary Olson   Producer,Engineer
Ladybug Transistor   Arranger,Producer
Bill Wells   Engineer
Kyle Forester   Producer,String Arrangements
Daniel Dzula   Composer,Programming
Drue Wagner   Layout

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