Label: Talitres Release Date: September 21, 2009 Website: http://www.leloupmusic.net/ There are significant sounds of autumn: subtle changes in the sky make the underfoot hum of the pavement whisper in warmcool breezes. Finding the perfect record for grey days and new mittens is precious, measured by breadth and depth. “Family,” the sophomore release from Baltimore-based Le Loup, was lovingly crafted in dusty and pastoral sessions in North Carolina. Floorboards creak under the joyous rapture of folk influences while heavy layering of sounds wraps the listener in a grandmother’s quilt. “Family” is a fitting title for an album which announces the band’s now fuller, post-Craigslist lineup. Frontman Sam Simkoff needed musicians to help him tour as a live act, and after finding collaborators online, Le Loup is now a full and sublime group. Where electronic interjections and dazzle marked their first album, Le Loup has now settled comfortably into a chanting, direct, hold-you-closer-no-really-I-mean-it-much-closer sound. Simkoff’s vocals carry “Family” along the meandering way from furry/fury-filled breaths to the chantings of a spiritual healer. His yearning voice is punctuated throughout by symbiotic handclaps, clement drums, and the tender exclamations and provocations which best befit the act of running into the sea fully-dressed, your heirloom watch still fastened around your wrist. The lush “Beach Town” begins with a hoot, the sound of seagulls overhead. Tribal drums introduce themselves, though slowly succumb to the whispering haunt of Simkoff’s voice. Bongos float in and out, as if held by fickle kite strings. A bass line sneaks in, rising from a low tide to meet a guitar, and together they cluster beneath Simkoff’s lilting howl. “Grow” begins with a delicate tickle of ivory, which then succumbs to a chanting which resembles an Animal Collective-directed church choir. The early pop-flavored drums recall “Be My Baby,” accompanied by a dulcet guitar which provokes comparisons to the sound of 1960s surf movies or the Buddy Holly “Apartment Tapes.” “Morning Song” recalls folk and American roots music, with warbling voices and a euphonious banjo. And the creepier “Family” begins with the sounds of howling dogs, passing trains, and rustling, dry bones. Quiet, closed-eyes chanting devolves into a handclap-bursting ode to mothers, brothers, and sisters. “Forgive Me” sounds like a fertile run on the pavement in bare feet, the concrete still damp from last night’s rain. And the unassuming “Sherpa” takes its time, waiting nearly two full minutes to exclaim itself. The song emerges from still quiet, a small tapping, and perhaps the lull of a wooden rocking chair. A clock ticks louder, mechanical sounds pulse through plaster walls, until finally, at 1:50, a jubilant family song erupts from the musty darkness. The family hums in and out of a rapturous ode to the ocean and togetherness, “I GIVE TO MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS! I GIVE TO MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS!” and again they retreat into the darkness of an autumn cottage. Le Loup does not hide behind its influences, proudly acknowledging their admiration of their comrades Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, and Grizzly Bear. And though there are similarities to be drawn between them all, Le Loup stands out on its haunches as a particularly compelling group. Their effortless collages of sound, the bare joy of the instrumentation, and the sweet howl of their lyrics makes a sound which is full, spacious, and clear. Quiet warnings melt under opiate guitars, anodyne chants, and soporific banjos. Nature is exalted, family a stimulant. Full and empty moments chase each other throughout “Family,” resulting in a record which sounds like running after sunlight through the waning hour of dusk. Rating: 8/10