Year of the Album — #023
Lawrence & Leigh – “Odyssey Vol. III – Hills and Masts” (2011, Independent)
If you like your music in short, easily inhalable chunks which don’t require much thought in the listening process, Lawrence & Leigh are not for you. On Odyssey Vol. III: Hills and Masts, the third part of their ambitious three-part EP series, the Brooklyn songwriting duo takes chamber folk to expansive new heights. If you’re willing to listen to something that provides its reward to those who are patient and willing to slowly peel these songs like an aural onion, there’s a great deal to savor.
With a sound which melds the pop smarts of Elliott Smith and Over The Rhine’s Karen Bergquist with melodies that twist and turn, taking you on an aural journey. The Smith comparison is heard most on the wonderful “Heeled Shoes,” with a hauntingly simple guitar line that brings immediate comparisons to the slow build of “2:45 a.m.”
Meanwhile, “Glow” builds its way expansively through layers of melodic chamber pop, each part shifting and merging until late in the proceeding we get to hear the real hooks dig in: “down here in the shadows I’m without my mask, and everything you’ve wanted could be in your grasp,” Andrew Kalleen sings, before the song morphs from funky pseudo disco into something Burt Bacharach would love, complete with hauntingly catchy vocals from Kristin Stokes that sound like Manhattan Transfer flew in for a studio sound-check. All this in six minutes of musical bliss.
It’s not an easy album to fall in love with, but give these six ambitious songs enough time to soak in and you’ll understand why this duo is making waves in the world of folk music. It’s a challenging recipe for meaningful music, and given the chance, I’ll take ambition and creativity over ease of consumption any day.