Review of The Sleeper a new album from The Leisure Society released through Full Time Hobby.
The Leisure Society are a Brighton/London based band, consisting of founding member Nick Hemming with Christian Hardy, Mike Siddel, William Calderbank, Helen Whitaker, Sebastian Hankins, Darren Bonehill, Ollie Christian, Jonny Bridgwood, Kate Whitaker, Mangus Williams, Laura Harrison and Beatrice Sanjust di Teulada. So - with so many musicians a combination of the upright, Rhodes, grand and thumb Piano, acoustic and electric guitar, upright and electric bass, drums and percussion, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, melodica, autoharp, glockenspiel, harmonium, flute and alto flute, synths, piccolo, violin, cello, clarinet, hand claps and a talking bowl all feature on The Sleeper, their debut album!
An interesting side, for all you film buffs, Nick Hemming used to be in a band called She Talks to Angels with none other than British Indie Film Maker Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine. Hemming also created the soundtracks to Meadows 'A Room for Romeo Brass' and 'Dead Mans Shoes'
My first impression of The Leisure Society was that of a quintessential British band. Something about their clean harmonies and orchestration is familiar sounding and as such makes The Leisure Society instantly accessible. Some of their songs have country folk orientated themes such as 'A Short Weekend Begins With Longing', 'Save It For Someone Who Cares' and the bands debut single 'The Last Melting Snow' which has wallowing string instruments partnered with lyrics 'and America seems an awful long way to go, as we hide ourselves in the last of the melting snow' to provide a sense of a long and tiring old country road trip.
Whereas 'Save It For Someone Who Cares' with its banjo twiddles and rushing drum shuffles, gives you more of an upbeat harvest festival ho-down vibe. Ok, so I'm sounding a tad cliché with my comparisons, and not very British with my Old Americana similes but its back to that accessible idea, simple clean images and ideas are brought to mind, but it doesn't detract from the music, and something about the delivery and execution of the music is very British.
They retain some of the pop sensibilities of bands such as The Beatles and their American counterparts The Beach Boys, songs like 'A Fighting Change' the albums opener, sounds like a Ringo Starr ditty and 'Are We Happy?' has a real Brian Wilson 'Smiley, Smile - Wild Honey' use of intermittent key changes, pauses and syncopated lyric instrument delivery. I know, I know.that last bit sounded a little bit pretentious, and it wasn't intended to sound like a music students personal performance critic, and it's not because the music is pretentious, because it isn't, to a degree not worthy of a heavily involved musical deconstruction but it was an explanation intended to nod to the musicality of The Leisure Society's offering.
Without sounding dismissive, The Sleeper is not worthy of heavy over-thinking when ukulele parts are played with a bouncing happy beat, harmonious string's, simple honest lyrics and escalating scale solos from one of the many instruments on offer because it certainly doesn't feel like The Leisure Society takes their music all that seriously themselves. I imagine them all shuffling along with big grins and happy eyes, having fun creating their own brand of uplifting and satisfying songs - but equally not coming across like a bunch of happy clappy goons.
The angelic and choral songs such as 'The Darkest Place I know' with delicate glockenspiel and percussive handclaps is a really gently perky song without being too happy that you want to slap it in the face, and so for me it's just about right for a cheerful easy going listen. 'We Were Wasted' - with its perpetual guitar plucking and slightly sinister dark mandolin parts has an essence of a Neil Young song, which nicely leads onto more modern comparisons. Noticeably Fleet Foxes with the same sort of candid instrumental sections and catchy instantly sing along-able lyrics, they do have a more Prog-Rock Americana lilt than The Leisure Society. The Leisure Society don't really push their sound as far.
All in all an enjoyable debut to listen to and like all debut albums should be, one that demonstrates clearly what the musicians are about. Not necessarily the most original or unique sounding band in the world, but that doesn't mean that it's not worth a listen. They do what they do well and whether you like the roots of The Leisure Society's sound or not, I can't imagine The Sleeper being something that would offend many people. From time to time the middle ground feels the firmest and so The Sleeper may work for you.
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