Luke Leighfield

New Season

Written by: CM on 29/03/2012 22:06:37

Piano rock has become a bit of a tired genre over the years, so often plagued by repetition and cliché that many listeners have gotten to the point where they write off anything with that label on association alone. I personally have always had a soft-spot for records where the piano takes the lead role, and I have loved or marginally enjoyed almost every band or artist you could name in the genre, from the classics (Billy Joel, Elton John), to the modern mainstream players (The Fray, Augustana), all the way to the relative obscurities (Wakey!Wakey!, Embrace). From the first moments of Luke Leighfield's fourth full length solo record (entitled "New Season"), the English-born troubadour recalls a slew of the songwriters that have gone before him in the genre. Leighfield is a Do-It-Yourself artist, but you could hardly tell from his latest record, which plays out as a fully orchestrated, exquisitely produced set of songs that ring, echo, swell, and fall at all the right points. And that makes sense, since Leighfield runs his own record label (Got Got Need Records), has a long list of notable friends in the music industry, and is a fantastically accomplished pianist and violinist, having worked as a sessions musician on both instruments. The piano serves as the backbone for each of the ten cuts on record, and while the combination between that instrument and the British-accented lilt of Leighfield's voice will instantly earn him endless comparisons to acts like Coldplay and Keane, his overall sound generally lands closer to that of some of today's most prominent American piano rockers. For example, the presence of Ben Folds floats through many of Leighfield's most dynamic vocal snippets, while the influence of Andrew McMahon (Jack's Mannequin, Something Corporate) can be felt in many of the album's soundscapes and arrangements, especially at the album's best moments.

And there are a lot of great moments here, from the slow burn opening of the aptly-titled "Slow Down" (with a piano riff that could have come straight off of a Something Corporate album), to the summer-esque pop rock of the title track, all the way to the ringing guitar intro of "Patience," which drew me in immediately. Gang vocals burst in the background of "The One Thing," eventually subsiding into a gentle piano tag, while Leighfield's rock 'n' roll aesthetic is evident in the power chords and the incessant build-up of "Live For More," which also collapses into a luminous, echoing piano outro. A series of arpeggiated piano notes open album highlight "Garde Ta Foy," recalling Adele's massively successful flagship single "Someone Like You", and much like that song was, "Garde" is probably the album's most subdued and emotionally striking number. The delicate accompaniment allows Leighfield's voice to really shine here, gliding over the arrangement in a simplistic but moving fashion that results in one of the most gorgeous songs I've heard all year. As the song moves forward, an ambiance of strings and back-up vocals swell around Leighfield, building as drums enter and crescendo, and ultimately exploding into a wall of guitars. It really feels like a closer, but that honor belongs to "Do Not Settle," a commencement speech of a song that proves itself to be both entrancing and inspirational. Next to the massive scope inherent in the climax of "Garde Ta Foy," the build here feels a bit truncated and restrained, like the song (and the album, which loses steam after its opening but regains it in the final quarter) ends just as it is starting to reach greatness.

Leighfield doesn't entirely escape the usual traps of the piano pop/rock genre on "New Season," but he does tend to transcend them. To be sure, there are lyrical clichés here and there, and Leighfield isn't the most original melodist, causing his songs do run together on occasion, but his vocals have a warm and welcoming familiarity about them, and his songs very often build and grow as they move forward (and with subsequent listens). I don't suppose that the record will win many new fans for the piano rock scene, and the naysayers will very likely find that they have the same problems with Leighfield that they do with genre's biggest stars, but for me and for many who find a certain degree of pleasure in this type of music, guilty or otherwise, this record represents a treasure trove of earnest lyrics, well executed arrangements, and light, beautiful melodies. He doesn't have the hooks that McMahon has, or the lyrical brilliance that Folds manifests every so often, and no one will ever be Billy Joel, but Leighfield is a solid songwriter and an even better musician, and "New Season" deserves to be heard.

Download: "Slow Down," "The One Thing," "Garde Ta Foy"
For The Fans Of: Jack's Mannequin/Something Corporate, Keane, Ben Folds, Wakey!Wakey!

Release Date 26.03.2012
Got Got Need Records

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