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Leaves - The Angela Test


Review: Jack Foley

ICELANDIC five-piece, Leaves, specialise in songs of slow-building intensity that are heavy on atmosphere, yet quietly invigorating.

Their second album, The Angela Test, is an adventurous effort - brimming with majestic arrangements, elemental beauty and soaring melodies.

It's bound to appeal to fans of the music of Elbow, Doves and Radiohead, yet retains a sound that is distinctively its own.

The album kicks off with the seven minute long, piano-driven epic, Shakma, which recalls the multi-layered approach of Elbow, as well as their uplifting melodies.

It's a towering achievement - a slow builder that gives way into a wall of drums and electronica that sends shivers down the spine when played loud enough.

And it's indicative of the broader sound the group has developed, having welcomed back keyboard player, Andri Asgrimsson, and employed a new drummer, Noi Steinn Einarsson (the line-up also includes Arnar Gudjonsson, Hallur Hallsson and Arnar Olafsson).

Arnar G likens the writing of the song to the creation of their own symphony and listening to it unfold on such an epic scale, it's hard to disagree.

From opening on such a high, the album continues to deliver the goods, albeit on a smaller scale.

Whatever sounds very much like Doves, courtesy of its Pounding-style drum loop. But it's far more relaxed and wimsical; a celebration of life and love that, once again, builds to a fantastic crescendo.

Intriguingly, the band is capable of breaking the format occasionally and readily describe Good Enough as their 'rock 'n' roll song' - a deliberate departure from their brooding stuff.

It's an intense, indie-rock affair that recalls the Radiohead of the Hail To The Thief era and it's packed with killer hooks and a rousing chorus.

Other highlights to look out include the title track, Angela Test, which, according to the band, is their idea of what a Russian Beach Boys might sound like.

It contains plenty of vocal layers and some truly majestic piano chords, before once again building to an epic high.

Likewise, the chilled out As We Walk, which features some more blissful lyrics and plenty of imagery.

Final track, Shoud Have Seen It All, uses the novel sample of builders dynamiting an underground car park to create a sound that is quite profound, yet it merely serves to underline the fact that Leaves seldom operate on a small scale.

They are one of the more adventurous bands of the moment whose sound is well worth embracing.

The Angela Test is, therefore, to be highly recommended.

 

Track listing:
1. Shakma (Drunken Starlit Sky)
2. Whatever
3. The Spell
4. As We Walk
5. Angela Test
6. Good Enough
7. Killing Flies
8. Silver Night
9. The Transparent
10. Should Have Seen It All

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