Sunday, 21 July 2013

ARTS & LEISURE - ALBUM REVIEW

Arts & Leisure - Choose Your Adventure (Test Pattern Records) 
Arts & Leisure - Choose Your Adventure

Sometimes, just sometimes, you throw the chips in the air and they all come down the right side up. For instance, when a band comes along with an album named after your favourite childhood series of books, songs more summery than an ice cream melting on a beach and that classic boy-girl-boy-girl line up then you just know that everything is going to be alright. Sacramento quartet Arts & Leisure have come up with an album which expertly walks that fine line between sweet and sour, dark and light, soft and jagged. The  album opens up with the dreamy 'Seconds From Flight' that has a little Arcade Fire about it but, weirdly, that is mixed with some Best Coast and some Belly to make it a less jagged pill to swallow. 'Wolf Pack', however, is a much more lively and jaunty indie-pop number and has the qualities that would see it sit comfortably on the soundtrack to any 80s movie about teenage romance and kids with more money and gadgets than sense or good looks. Then, with 'The River', the tempo drops again and suddenly we're walking hand-in-hand with the Thrills or the Magic Numbers down by the river as the summer sun sets and somewhere, not too far away, a heart is being broken.

Now it may seem like I'm rattling through these tracks but this is an 11 track album that's over in less than half an hour and, when the songs are this well crafted, that is a fact worth noting. So, on to track 4, the hand-clap laden 'Toria' with its Veruca Salt-esque charms and subtle but furious guitar work. 'Rescue Me' has a more acoustic feel to it but the pace is relentless and twee-ness is unavoidable (why would you want to) before giving way to the beautifully lackadaisical 'Upside Down'. This is a song performed through the haze of a first summer experimenting with hash, cheap booze and the first stirrings of love but all with a backdrop of solid friends and a sense that these days should be remembered if not chronicled for future reminiscing. Skip forward a few years and we're at College singing 'Hello' with friends in the student union whilst trying to look awesome on the dance floor and, just maybe, catch the eye of that gorgeous guy/girl who always sits at the back in your class on a Thursday. The twin vocals of Gerri White and Becky Cale, dripping in sweetness and the ability to turn on you at the drop of a hat, would make the most mundane of songs stand out but as the songs are succinct little nuggets of melodious joy that theory is yet to be proven. 'City Life', for example, starts off like it could be disappointing but by the end I'm flicking my imaginary pig tails to the beat.

As we approach the end of this album, an album you could fall in love with twice during your lunch break, 'Bridge' gives those harmonies a chance to really explore and it's like a twee-pop choir in my head. Penultimate tack, 'Once', is a genuinely beautiful and superbly uncomplicated song that you feel might have been performed twice, recorded once and just left at that. Such is the purity of sentiment in both lyric and music that you can't imagine this has been over thought but it has come straight from the heart and in to our ears. As the album closes, those hints of the Arcade Fire are back on 'Enjoy Your Flight' but the saccharine sweet vocals overlayed on buzzsaw guitars and a hypnotic rhythm make for an enthralling song. Add in the lyric "It's just a story but you can write the end, choose your adventure or opt to start again" and I am sold. Sadly, due to my overflowing inbox of submissions, I seem to have missed Arts & Leisure's recent UK shows but on this evidence I'm sure they'll be back soon enough.


Live Dates:

25th July - Patine Wijn Bistro, Antwerp, Belgium
26th July - Rock Cafe, Leuven, Belgium
27th July - Posthuis, Wuustwezel, Belgium
24th August - Old Ironsides, Sacramento, California

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