The Corner Laughers
Out now – D/DL
The fifth album by those denizens of Red Wood City, California’s The Corner Laughers. This record features 10 new tracks and is released by the prolific Big Stir label….LTW’s Ian Canty finds that he can’t resist a giggle
Another band I’m playing catch-up on, the Corner Laughers have been in existence since 2006 and during that time managed to put out five albums amongst other activity. Temescal Telegraph is the most recent of those and is really something else. Here, the Laughers line-up of singer/songwriter Karla Kane, multi-instrumentalists Khol Huyah and KC Bowman, plus drummer Charlie Crabtree, weave a pattern quite unlike any other. Whilst conducting some research I came across a review which compared them to an American Belle & Sebastian but, on listening to their full-bodied sound as demonstrated on this LP, they came over as more or less unique to me.
There’s a real fresh rush to the sound of the Corner Laughers on Temescal Telegraph right from the get-go. Incidentally Temescal means a kind of stone-built sweat lodge found in Central America (yes, I didn’t know either, so I looked it up). I have to say that I felt more engaged as a confidante rather than just a listener from the off. If a lot of the initial impact comes from Karla Kane’s vocal style, the instrumentation is equal to the task of creating the perfect backdrop. So much so that I willingly lost myself among the elegantly crafted and knowing world that is this LP.
On the opening track The Calculating Boy, Karla immediately beguiles and there’s a faint hint of the Kursaal Flyers’ hit Little Did She Know in the melody and finely judged playing. That’s all before the music embarks on tighter, marching section and the song reveals itself as a sharp character study full of breezy energy and allure. Warm organ washes usher in Changeling, more of jangly country strut this one, with a deep old-style R&B base. Kind of like “tough as teak” bar band smarts granted an extra hint of seduction and mystery by the cool vocal and lyric.
The Accepted Time begins with some stuttering guitar, before becoming slower when a sweeping folk pop/rock appeal emerges. A real beauty that brings a lump to the throat, with a subtle arrangement which is very well accomplished. All this adds up to a very enchanting atmosphere. It is followed by The Lilac Line, a song recut from Karla Kane’s solo LP and helmed by her ukulele. The sedate, near ballad intro is quickly usurped by an on the beat rock styling. This effort is deliciously sung too, with Kane appearing to subscribe to the “less is more” axiom and as a result you, the listener, are the winner.
The uke rings in Loma Alta too, with a pleasingly smooth combination of bass and drums gradually loping into focus. With some neat double-tracked vocals and sparingly deployed piano, this song has a real dreamlike charm. Next comes Sisters Of The Pollen, which enters with some unexpected synths bubbles until the pace is taken up a notch. This is just great pop music with a big hook, but still crucially retains The Corner Laughers’ own unique stamp.
Wren In The Rain again has solitary voice and ukulele beginnings, before going into some heady folk pop with abundant allure. A Martin Newell song, Goodguy Sun, is next and finds the Corner Laughers back in a more balladry mode. Such a sweet recording this, with some tasteful percussion, easily wrapping this listener around the band’s collective little finger.
If the title of Skylarks Of Britain suggests a pseudo-1970s short nature film overdubbed with a comical Peter Serafinowicz voice-over (that man is a genius), the song itself is very much like a forgotten folky pop-psych single from the late 1960s. The choral voices and gentle but skilfully created tune gives the guitar, which has often been firmly in the background, a real chance to shine in the track’s long fade out.
It’s left to the song Lord Richard to close out the album, piano prominent in a hymn-like march which grants an appropriately “scarves aloft” end to Temescal Telegraph. It’s been a journey that takes us through smart and often funny stories about life with Karla as our honey-voiced guide and the other CLs more than up to their part. Making the acquaintance with the Corner Laughers is well worth the effort, as this is an imaginative and beautifully realised recording that takes you direct to a dreamy world of their own. These are songs and performances that bury themselves in deep, with a sound that is marvellously full and lush. Temescal Telegraph is a delightful way to spend 35 minutes of your summer.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here