Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: LuxDeluxe makes all the right moves on new CD

Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014
LuxDeluxe is in relaxed rehearsal mode at Spirithouse Recording Studio in Northampton, taking a low-key break for an interview, but there’s palpable excitement in the air. A big day is coming. A fun avalanche of big days, actually, and while the five guys calmly sip their drinks and kid around, the rumble has begun.

Having spent three long and labor-filled years writing and recording (and re-recording) songs, the band finally has a new album ready — playfully titled “It’s a Girl” — and they’re gearing up for its release party at the Iron Horse in Northampton on Saturday at 10 p.m. Violent Mae opens.

After all the work, the waiting, any day now, shipping boxes of their shiny new CDs will show up on the doorstep; their first-ever band van (a spiffy thing they bought from a church) will arrive in the driveway; they’ll get to see the first cut of their new concept video (directed by Dan Taibbi).

Later this month LuxDeluxe climbs into the new van and tours down to Washington, D.C., and back; they’ve also booked a month-long June tour that includes an appearance at the North By Northeast music and arts festival in Toronto and other gigs in Canada (their first shows outside the States), as well as a live set for the esteemed Daytrotter website in Illinois.

The close-knit band — Ned King on vocals, brothers Jacob and Caleb Rosazza on bass and guitar, cousin Gabe Bernini on keyboards and Jake Edwards on drums — has been around since 2009, but in many ways this surge of activity is a fresh start. They have one old record under their belt (“Hollow Ground”), but evidence of its existence took some digging; Jacob Rosazza said that when the group was writing songs for the new album, if an idea reminded them of their debut, they nixed it.

It was the right move: Press play and it’s immediately clear that “It’s a Girl” is a big step forward. There are more interesting textures and alluring elements in the first minute of the new album than on the entirety of the old one. The band members said they wanted to create something of high quality that welcomed multiple listens — Wilco (and its albums like “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”) are a big influence — and the quintet thinks of the record as a re-introduction to the band. “It’s our debut album for the world,” Bernini said.

LuxDeluxe wrote upwards of 30 songs but whittled it down to nine, giving those as much attention, focus and spit and shine as possible — in fact the catchy radio-ready “By Hook Or By Crook” went through five versions before the band decided one (the fourth one) was good enough. The finished song has barroom piano twinkles, hand claps, background “ooohs” — it’s one of many tunes on “It’s a Girl” that happily sticks in the brain.

Album-opener “What You Need” starts with chintzy drum machine and feathery Casio but soon explodes into CinemaScope with in-your-face drums and synth bass a la the Flaming Lips — add some distorted vocals and nagging hooks and it’s another song you find yourself singing all the damn day.

Also catchy is “So Far Away (Ba Ba Da Ba Da Ba),” a radio hit-in-waiting with romantic ’70s R&B-style strings and a nonsense refrain that follows in grand pop tradition — forget about serious lyrics, just give us a hook so we can sing along.

At the same time LuxDeluxe is strengthening its songs’ pop core, there’s a willingness to experiment, whether it’s the random instrumental or studio chatter bits that link the songs, or the record-ending five-minute backwards coda. Bernini still seemed transfixed by the weird effect of reversing some of their music; he particularly loved the new guitar melody that got created. And when King’s backwards vocals come in, “It’s like an Italian opera,” one of the guys said.

The title “It’s a Girl” came from a vintage pin Bernini found at the Hadley Flea Market. He saw the phrase and was sure it should be the title of the then-unfinished record, though it made sense in other ways, too. “Every song is about a girl!” Jacob Rosazza said.

Frontman King designed the artwork with his dad, and the bright turquoise and lemon color palette is as eye-grabbing as the band’s first CD was plain and middle-of-the-road.

According to LuxDeluxe, film director Wes Anderson was a big influence on the album (and its accompanying artwork and videos). Each song on “It’s a Girl” is full of thoughtful detail — guitar strokes placed just-so, different twinkling percussion in each speaker — the band’s equivalent of Anderson’s carefully planned camera shots.

For all its studio bells and whistles, it’s still an album meant to be played live, and the band will perform it from beginning to end at the Iron Horse show. And it’s bringing a crazy amount of gear on the road to faithfully reproduce the recordings.

LuxDeluxe promises the release party will be a spectacle, with lots of audience interaction. Bernini seems particularly excited about what the band is planning: “I want people to be saying, ‘it was awesome,’ not just ‘it was fun.’ ”

Ken Maiuri can be reached at clublandcolumn@gmail.com.