- In the Leap Year
- May 11, 2004
"This album serves to be disjointed and without a theme," declares LKN, Lauren K. Newman, multi-instrumentalist post-rawk chanteuse in the liner notes to her latest long-player, In the Leap Year. "Its sole purpose I believe to be to project rhythm, spirit, passion, tone and mood." This is as spot-on a description of the album as could possibly be made (so, if you're pressed for time, skip the rest of the review): In The Leap Year is not particularly consistent or continuous, but it feels remarkably personal and energetic.
"Varientklav II" is an interesting little ambient electronic track, and the following "Jussive" is the polar opposite, the big, awkward, clunky rock song of the album. The melody is an impermeable wall of shouting guitars, interrupted by quietly bland vocal interludes. Later on in the track, the overdrive distortion is turned down a bit and the guitars become more tangible, but it's not enough-- "Jussive" is a sort of combination of overwhelming and underwhelming and it all sort of balances out to being just downright not worth bothering. At least it's gotten out of the way first, because things do get quite a bit better immediately thereafter.
"Riddle" is where Newman first hits her stride-- the guitars are less globular and more angled, allowing the riffs to be loud without being as overpowering as those in "Jussive". Also, here, the lyrics are not forced to strain over the guitar, allowing them to be more affecting. The guitar work is very impressive, at times sounding like Don Caballero circa American Don, and her vocals compare to Tara Jane O'Neill's in her Rodan days, before she gave up screaming. "To an Angel on No Condition" also features some of the album's most effective and memorable riffs, and is consistently entertaining and heartfelt for its minute-and-45-second duration.
"Sugar of Lead" features some pretty dissonant harmony in the guitars, which is the one notable point about the song-- while it's all certainly very impassioned, and the lyrics are impressively polysyllabic, there's not much to remember about it, save the first ten seconds or so. In fact, for the majority of the album, most of what you remember is the guitar. Newman is a fascinating guitarist, incorporating bizarre dissonance into bizarre tunes and creating a free-flowing background to what is often a fairly straightforward foreground. "Straightforward", of course, does not mean "bad": the vocals, though, are just most often not where your interest should be pointed.
"Bleak, Ruined Choir of One", as an example: the sections that feature Newman's vocals are nice enough, but the bursts of guitars are far more memorable, and the centerpiece-- a roughly fifteen-second-long interjection of ridiculously wonderful rapid guitar noodling-- is, brief though it may be, the defining moment of the song. "I Could Not Escape the Sound", as a counter-example, keeps your interest pointed squarely at the instruments throughout the whole thing-- there are prominent vocals, but here they support the guitar, almost as a subtle afterthought. There are no parts as predominantly brilliant as in the preceding, but the entire song is more consistent for it.
At times, In the Leap Year does reach brilliance; at times, it is merely consistently good; and at times it is benign but dormant. It is constantly changing, at times raucous, at times introspective, at times good-naturedly rocking and at times inexplicably bizarre, but showcases throughout LKN's extreme talent, even if it's not always put to its best use.
- Noah Jackson
- Varientklav II
- To an Angel on No Condition
- Will Meets Strength on Courage
- Sugar of Lead
- To Stay in the Same Place
- Bleak, Ruined Choir of One
- Such Is My Love for You
- In the Leap Year
- I Could Not Escape the Sound
- Sarah, I Adore You