Dead Leaves tell stories. Sure, the Cleveland, Ohio group want you to invest emotionally – and there are enough moments on ‘Vultures’ that hit hard and true – but first and foremost they want to give you a vignette; a snapshot or a tale to suck you in.
Consequently, ‘Vultures’ is rich with imagery. From a story about dementia (‘Sunrise’), to one of homesickness (‘Hopeless Dweller’), it’s an album of vivid moments pulled from the memory of songwriter Elliott Blair. And, even if it’s lyrically sombre – opener ‘Death and Taxes’ considers how the decaying body nurtures soil, for example – there’s a musical push to go with the lyrical pull. The result is an album of engaging and upbeat indie-rock, but also one that isn’t afraid to tackle some deep themes.
Like The Hotelier, they manage this stylistic mixture perfectly, offering up succinct and weighty stories that can be dissected and discussed, but which work equally well as anthems to be sung from the pit.
It’s not all glum posturing though; there are moments of light and a genuine sense that resolution is what Dead Leaves are looking for on ‘Vultures’. The aforementioned ‘Hopeless Dweller’ manages this perfectly. While homesickness, and a look at the past through rose-tinted glasses, is the overriding theme it’s also optimistic for the future. Sometimes you have to appreciate what you have – and Dead Leaves are masters of emphasising this contentedness.
Better still, it rocks hard. ‘Bloodshot’ is without doubt one of the finest songs of the year; a punchy, anthemic slice of forward-looking indie-rock, blessed with a monumentally contagious chorus and some delightful hooks. Like every other track on ‘Vultures’ it’s smartly observed and eloquently related.
It all means ‘Vultures’ is one of those special albums where everything just feels ‘right’. Emotional but not overbearing, hook-laden but not obvious, and smart but not obtuse. It’s a fine line to tread but one Dead Leaves manage expertly.
‘Vultures’ by Dead Leaves is released on 25th August on Take This To Heart Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)