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.