The Ladybug Transistor

>”Clutching Stems” – The Ladybug Transistor

Always with a vaguely nostalgic sound, The Ladybug Transistor by now operates kind of meta-nostalgically, since the band itself dates back to an completely different musical age—born out of the Elephant Six Collective in 1995: pre-Napster, pre-MP3, very nearly pre-WWW. They disappear for such long stretches at a time that I’d pretty much forgotten what an appealing sound they have, all sad-sprightly and ’60s-pop-influenced. Belle & Sebastian comes to mind also; although different bands in many ways, there’s a common vibe, both atmospherically and melodically, between this Brooklyn ensemble and Stuart Murdoch’s Scottish gang. Both bands offer up a powerful kind of nostalgia that remains somehow, also, both of-the-moment and timeless.

What has me in love with this song in general is the juxtaposition of the rapid pace and the melancholy air, which is not a natural combination. The song’s fleetness also disguises its unusual construction: it seems to be built around a meandering, two-tiered chorus, without any otherwise repeating element in the song. I don’t hear a verse. What has me in love with this song in particular is the aforementioned chorus, which stretches beyond something simple and immediately singable, accumulating a quiet sort of grandeur as we are led to a truly wonderful melodic moment: front man Gary Olson singing, “And now that I’m not/It’s all coming apart” (first heard at 1:07). This is worth the price of admission. More goodness: the striking titular image, which implies an entire story in those two concrete words.

Always something of a free-floating outfit, the Ladybug Transistor has experienced any number of lineup changes over the years. One of them was tragic, as drummer San Fadyl, on board since 1997, died of an asthma attack in April 2007. The band has not recorded since then, until now. (Their last album, released in June 2007, had been recorded with Fadyl.) Three new members have joined three LT veterans; the end result is Clutching Stems, due out on Merge Records in June. The band was previously been featured in 2003 and 2007. MP3 via Merge.