Leapling - Losing Face EP
Record Label - Father/Daughter
Release Date - January 15, 2013When it comes to graceful, well-balanced pop albums with enough twist or surprise to keep me coming back, I have a hard time thinking of recent examples. I might point to Whitest Boy Alive, Sleep Good, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, or a couple of other relatively unheralded groups producing music that seems lost on today’s increasingly impatient listener. Without a visual aesthetic to grab the fashion conscious or a massive, over-blown hook to capture the ears of electro-pop fanatics, it seems like straightforward and brilliantly executed pop records go completely unnoticed.
For those unfamiliar, Leapling is the project of New York artist Dan Arnes and the help of a few friends, making for a quartet when they perform live. Written and recorded over a few month period, this debut EP is a lesson in eloquence and subtle beauty, a record steeped in well-managed restraint in a year when top 40 stars and unbelievable reunions appear destined control the media’s landscape. What results from this formula is a record beaming with confidence and radiating with pride, unyielding in its ability to take simple songwriting and do every aspect of it perfectly . And while it doesn’t reinvent slacker-pop, it does a great job of reminding us all that it’s not to be forgotten.
The lead track on Losing Face, “Nature Must Not Win,” is a sort of breezy orchestral number that tempts space and ambition. The simple guitar notes, the poetic nature of Arnes’ tones, the way in which the song sort of drifts from start to finish as if it could carry on forever makes the listless nature of the tune all the more poignant. It is unconcerned but never forgettable, an easy way to lure listeners into the record from the very start, and by the end of the nearly five and a half minute track, “Nature Must Not Win” has transformed from meandering guitar pop into Losing Face's most powerful moment.
“Memory Bank” doesn’t stray from that structure, beginning as a simple mix of vocals and piano keys before bursting into an immersive array of cymbals, guitars and flutes. But even in its most heady moments, Losing Face never becomes weighted down with the expectation that it needs to fill a certain void for a certain person, and in turn, it comes across as a record for everybody. “If You’re Patient” is as boyish and innocent as pop music gets, and adorned with Arnes’ delicate vocals the track is once again a lesson in unsolicited brilliance. While there might not be a huge swell of people actively seeking out the kind of music you’ll find on Losing Face (candid, no strings attached pop music isn’t exactly in vogue right now), the incredible precision and tactile nature of Leapling’s debut record is nothing short of masterful. Losing Face doesn't need me to qualify its position in modern independent music to make it more appealing, but it is important to note that honest musicianship can go a long way in the age of irony and consumption.