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Loch Lomond: Little Me Will Start a Storm (Tender Loving Empire) 

Portland, Ore.'s Loch Lomond is responsible for one of my all-time-favorite live-music moments: On stage at Plush in 2006, toward the end of their set (and toward the end of an especially haunting song), singer Ritchie Young and his fellow musicians whipped out those tube-like toy noisemakers that, when lassoed around, make a high-pitched whistling noise. The lights shone on them, and the effect was surprising, magical and inspiring—and it's still the perfect image to describe Loch Lomond's sound.

The smallest, simplest thing used in a surprising way can create the grandest moment.

Loch Lomond has since morphed from a project mostly spearheaded by Young into a full-fledged band, and Little Me Will Start a Storm is all the more magical and inspiring for it. Even though many instruments and voices are working simultaneously to create each whole song, no note gets lost. It's incredibly balanced—the aural equivalent of umami. Every individual guitar string, every gentle shake of the percussion, every pressed key on the piano, is given equal importance and weight. It's the quietest and most natural sounds that make this album intimate, warm and real—like the sound of Young's mouth opening at the end of "I Love Me," or the sound of fingers releasing strings on "Alice Left With Stocking and Earrings."

And then, there, in the open space between flourishes of clarinet and strings on "Water Bells," is a high-pitched whistle not unlike the sound made by those toy noisemakers.

More by Annie Holub

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