Leave No Trace: Album Review

The LA outfit’s second offering continues to infuse Western guitar pop with African influenced rhythms and sounds, but there is, thankfully, a notable progression since the release of their eponymous debut released in 2009.

The album opener The Dive is a complete rejection of World music, and does in fact have a similar tempo and guitar line to The Smiths.  Already I’m paying attention.  A notable criticism of the debut was the over-use of lead singer Luke Top’s choice to sing in Hebrew, which sounds great on a few songs, but not the whole album.  The Hebrew is greatly toned down this time around, which is a relief, particularly on the band’s first single Wild Window, which has a delightful, funky guitar hook, combined with Top’s slurry, captivating tones. The brass is also toned down slightly making for a more varied sound, unlike the first album. The majority of the songs, however, follow a similar twang guitar opening formula, (all of which must be played 10th fret or higher) allowing them to produce a tighter sound certainly, but unfortunately results in merging the tracks together into anonymity. There is also a strong smell of the Vampire Weekend about the album, particularly the more ‘Western songs’ such as Mammal, and Bark and Bite but their being a little more gloomy and emotive allows for slight differentiation from Vampire’s ‘feel-good/the summer’s out/I’m a freshmen vibe’. Additionally, songs such as Balmy and Narrow Sun successfully bring back the African vibe/Afro-beats to Fool’s Gold’s sound, which are not that bad as stand-alone songs, rather than the whole album sounding like a Tinariwen tribute band.  There is still time to bring out the Hebrew in Tel-Aviv, which again makes for more interesting listening this time around.

The certain album highlight is the beautiful title track Leave No Trace; an 80s new wave indie pop number full of passionate and emotional vocals, long guitar parts and beautiful harmonies on the chorus (N.B could not find a link).  Street Clothes has smatterings of disco about it, while the closer Lantern is a soulful slow ballad, which suggests that this band may have finally begun to expand their musical capabilities.  The more ‘Western’ pop songs may point to a surrendering of their unique sound heard in the debut, but rather I would say that this variation of style, including some retention of the old sound along with (comprehensible) beautiful and personal lyrics and notable 80s influence make Leave No Trace a significant headway in Fool’s Gold promising career.

Leave No Trace is out now on IAMSOUNDRECORDS.



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