Some of the imagery conjured by Loch Lomond: a lone figure in the distance, dwarfed by a soaring mountain horizon. The knowing wink of a cabaret singer performing in a dingy canteen. The international esprit de corps of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who fought the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. A weathered photo of a beloved grandmother. Evocation is par for the course with this eight-piece ensemble, who combine music-theater vocals and winsome indie-folk to enchanting effect. “A String,” the first track on their new album Pens From Spain, showcases their delicate side; so pretty and studious it almost lapses into preciousness (oh, those chimes!), the song is redeemed by the elegance of its layered arrangement.
Perhaps predictably for a group who takes their name from both a Scottish lake and 18th-century rebel song, Loch Lomond wring a lot of emotional symbolism out of the geography they sing about. Seattle, Southern Idaho, Denver, British Columbia: circuits of home and departure centered in the city (Portland, Oregon) that the band calls home. Then there’s the exoticism of assorted European destinations, where footloose friends and old flames dwell: Iceland, Holland, Lisbon, Spain. These imagined settings also inspire a fantastic cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Nocturnal Me,” which Loch Lomond plays faithfully to the original’s flamenco flourishes while giving it a new spark with an exciting new arrangement. (Incidentally, it appears that remakes of this Ocean Rain deep cut are in the musical ether these days.)
I thought I was too cynical for this kind of sentimental, cinematic indie-folk, but a few listens into Pens From Spain, and I’m hooked. Follow me, comrades!
Pens From Spain is out now on Hush Records.