The Love Language: Ruby Red

The third album by this North Carolina pop-rock collective, fronted by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stuart McLamb, opens with big-beat rhythms on first single "Calm Down," the drums and bass rumbling like a song by the The Cure. With easy entry points and the framework of infectious melodies, McLamb reels us in - the über-catchy Franz Ferdinand-style "First Shot" an excellent case in point - only to repeatedly engage in squalls of distortion and feedback that are jarring and cathartic at the same time.

"Hi Life" and "Golden Age" are more straightforward dream-pop songs, tracing their shared lineage to lush alternative rock of the 1980s. Even on those numbers, though, the vibe is vaguely disorienting, just enough to keep you on your listening toes. Whistling and a fiddle bring a slightly Western air to the pretty, expansive "For Izzy."

Clearly, McLamb has lots of tricks up his sleeve, and although he began The Love Language as a one-man bedroom project, he reportedly used a roster of 20 musicians to fill out the intricate arrangements on Ruby Red.

It might take a few spins to warm up to it, but this album's elegant cinematic scale and ambitious pop reach (which reaches its apotheosis on the Beatlesque closer "Pilot Light") might attract listeners of such ensembles as Stars and Broken Social Scene.