If you still haven’t caught wind of Tacoma’s favorite folk rock quintet, A Leaf, you may find yourself blown away by their recently released 6-track EP, Lights.
The band began their journey when childhood friends Nate Daley and Shannon Donahue met kindred musical spirit Chris Bridges while they were in their teens. The three joined up with drummer Stephen Demuth, added Andy Wambem on bass, and A Leaf unfurled circa 2010.
Since they first came on the music scene, the stellar musical stylings of A Leaf have earned some well-deserved notoriety. When asked about Tacoma’s best band, Adam McKinney—music writer for Tacoma’s Weekly Volcano settles on A Leaf: “’Drawing inspiration from gentle ’60s psychedelia and baroque pop, A Leaf’s greatest strength,’ according to McKinney, ‘is found in their impeccable harmonies and precise melodies’” (www.lovealeaf.com/). According to their homepage bio, “A Leaf has been labeled indie rock, melodic, ethereal, spiritual… But at the heart of A Leaf lies timeless songs, soul-bleeding guitar work, a solid rhythm section, and image giving lyrics drenched in harmonies” (lovealeaf.com).
The band calls their Lights EP a “soundtrack for summer,” and I think you’ll agree they got this one right—it’s got this existential urgency. Like it’s all about growth, and there’s no more fruitful season for seizing that sweltering surge. The crescendo bursts forth with the title track, Lights, coming at you something like a meteor, or a train through a tunnel. Through a riveting intro of feedback and vibrating synth, a hesitant collision of drum beats awakens this precious rarity: I’ve settled on describing Lights as an ethereal punk rock ballad—it’s defiantly optimistic. It’s got just enough angst to convey a tone of urgency without feeling intrusive, and the guitar’s got this fierce, classic rock fervor to back up the boys’ velvety vocals. The crescendo swells through the next five tracks with few lulls, leaving no discernible peak. It feels like soaring, like floating on sound. It’s a great way to turn on that synchronicity sense in your brain—the one that instills every subtle line with meaning instantaneously—it’s in the movement of the melodies.
So what’s A Leaf? An entity for which falling is both graceful and necessary, if only to make space for new growth. Yeah—okay—but what about the band, and what about their sound? Well, it’s kind of like that. A Leaf is one of those rare finds—a band that can rock you to your feet at their shows, rock you sound to sleep with their recordings when the evening’s through, and remind you why you still roll out of bed every morning. It restores your faith in the human element of music, with that free-spirited, whimsical allure you feel when an old-time favorite plays on your dashboard radio.
It’s what I imagine The Kooks might sound like if they grew up on our west coast. Their sound is unique yet familiar, like new wind rustling old trees. Cascading percussion lines and dulcet harmonies melding to bring you sonorous soundscapes that hover somewhere amidst likenesses of The Beatles, The National, Wilco, Band of Horses, and even a bit of Led Zeppelin, with the kind of old school soulfulness you get from Robert Plant.
Check them out on Reverbnation to preview ardent, epic ballads of ageless love from “five restless souls, inhabiting 20-something bodies”–once you grant them a listen, their tunes are tough earworms to shake. As their Reverb bio author puts it, “A Leaf creates music with a vibe that you won’t know you wanted to dwell in eternally until you hear it and feel it”—peaceful as the summer sky before a thunder storm, and there’s no denying that charge (N.L. Edwin ).
If the first album is a summer leaf, turning into autumn, then Lights is born from the tree that weathered the winter and found transcendent glory budding in the spring. Unafraid of falling, A Leaf dives into their updated sound, deep as ever, and emerged with a fresh EP, sure to be a perennial favorite.
When you reach the end of this infectious, six-track exposition of uninhibited musical gallantry, these rhapsodic maestros will have you wishing you had a cassette or a vinyl with a flip-side, just so you could turn over a new one. Before you fret over its brevity, remember to take in A Leaf’s self-titled album, an 11-track LP release in July of 2012. Don’t consider it a substitute for seeing these guys live, though. If you like what you hear, add them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or bookmark their homepage, and keep an eye out for upcoming shows in your area. You won’t want to miss it when A Leaf blows through your town.
Find more about A Leaf at: www.lovealeaf.com