REVIEW: Love & Theft (album)

Love and Theft have just released their self-titled sophomore album. The duo (formerly a trio) became a sensation with the powerful “Runaway” – long a staple of my Friday escape-from-work playlist. Now down one member, their lyrics lack some of the oomph they used to have, but they still make good music.

The pair is at their best when they’re sharing lead vocal duty and harmonizing. Both Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson get some solo time on this album, and though they perform well, it loses what makes them unique as a group.

“Love and Theft” opens with “Angel Eyes”, which I reviewed here. Everything I said then still applies – I love this song.

“Inside Out” is a sexy little number about taking a girl from a barroom… and “maybe getting you thinking about/turning those blue jeans inside out”. It invites comparison to Brad Paisley’s “Ticks”, though it could also be a Blake Shelton or Dierks Bentley hit. That said, I like the way L&T does it – a little softer and gentler than either of the latter two would be capable of.

“Runnin’ Out Of Air” is a super cool tune with shades of Maroon 5, owing to the guitar, the drums, and the vocal style. Without giving too much away, I can’t get enough of this one. It’s addictive exactly the way the ex in the song is, but without the regret. Knowing now that L&T are capable of this, I want to hear more like it.

A sweet love song follows in “Amen”. The singer trusts that “The Man” won’t mind if he misses church just once, to “take in something spiritual/right here, right now in your eyes”. Formulaic, but it’s still a good song.

“If You Ever Get Lonely” is another fairly formulaic go at the unrequited-love-for-an-ex sub-genre. There’s nothing really unique about it, but again, L&T do it well.

They tick off another box with the next song, the I-want-to-be-more-than-friends “Thinking of You (And Me)”. When they harmonize on the title line, I can’t help but like it, despite my usual feelings about generic songs.

I really like the idea of “Town Drunk”, which is essentially a love song about the daughter of the eponymous drunk. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into it. The melody is a little boring, but I think it was sometimes-awkward lyrics that really turned me off. It’s a rare miss for the pair. If they could get a do-over, I’d like to see the concept re-written more in the style of Gary Allan or even the Eli Young Band – either deeper and darker, or more adventuresome musically.

Luckily, they come back with another great one: “Real Good Sign”. The singers walk us through a man’s mind during a first date, with all the uncertainty and nervousness and wondering if or when to make a move. And as there always is with songs I really like, there’s one line that stands out. Here, it’s the start of the chorus: “She hasn’t tried to kiss me/but I do believe it’s crossed her mind.” This deserves radio airtime, and a lot of it.

“She’s Amazing” is another pretty standard ballad – bordering on what would be called a power ballad if it were done by a rock band.

The second-last song is the fun “Girls Love To Shake It”. The easiest description is that it’s one of those “list” songs – “Rain likes to fall, sun likes to shine…money likes to burn a hole in both my pockets…girls love to shake it shake it shake it all night.” Definitely a fun one.

The album closes with “Girls Look Hot In Trucks”. Despite a name that would fit easily as a lyric in the previous song, it’s a very different song. Soft and almost understated, L&T sing about all the things guys disagree about, before concluding “but everybody knows/girls look hot in trucks”.

It took me almost till the end of the album to figure out why, but it seemed to me for a while that the record was bit one-dimensional. I finally realized that every single song was about girls. That may not seem unusual, especially in country, but there’s usually at least one or two about drinking, family, trucks, work, or “the” country. Here, it’s all girls. Love and Theft would do well to explore those subjects, too. I like girls as much as anyone, but 11 straight songs is almost too much.

One-dimensionality aside, it’s a solid effort. “Angel Eyes” is already climbing the charts and seeing increased airplay, and “Inside Out”, “Runnin’ Out Of Air”, and “Real Good Sign” could all easily be big hits. The concert favourite will be “Girls Love To Shake It”. “Thinking Of You (And Me)” might be the potential sleeper hit.

Although I think they were stronger as a trio, the reborn L&T remain a great act, and I can’t argue with the six tracks I really liked. I look forward to hearing them more on-air and on my iPod.

“Love and Theft” came out July 24.

RATING: 8/10

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