Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Promising if derivative debut from Icelandic quintet
on 13 August 2002
Much has been made of Leaves's similarity to Radiohead and the Verve. These comparisons are valid and undeniable, but Leaves have taken good things from their influences. Their debut album starts in spectacular fashion with three really strong songs. A cavernous, glacial echo opens "I Go Down", which then rides in on a sweeping, descending string part that wouldn't sound out of place on Angelo Badalamenti's score for "Twin Peaks". Add to this the aching melancholy of lead singer Arnar's vocal part and you're on to a winner. Arnar's strong, clear voice is one of the group's real assets, sounding like an almost perfect hybrid of Thom Yorke and Richard Ashcroft. You've probably already heard "Catch", a thrilling, life-affirming anthem buoyed by epic strings and a scything, ebullient guitar line not dissimilar to "This Is My Truth"-era Manics. Then there’s the piano-led, minor-key, almost jazzy melancholy of "Silence", which echoes "Karma Police".
Unfortunately, after this the record suffers somewhat from a succession of rather plodding mid-paced material in the middle that never quite lives up to the promise of the first three tracks; the muted gospel stylings of the title track sound like a Doves b-side and "Suppose" is just too much like Radiohead's "Exit Music" for comfort. There are exceptions, however, notably "Epitaph"'s faded grandeur and the transcendent, otherworldly "Deep Blue Day".
But it's not until the last two tracks that "Breathe" regains the momentum it had at the start. Strident former single "Race" grips with its desperate, claustrophobic refrain, "Sometimes breathing's the hardest thing to do, running after you"; and the lilting, languid, and utterly beautiful lullaby "We", quite possibly the best thing here, ends the album on a note of longing and sadness.
If Leaves can find their own voice then their second album could be spectacular; ultimately this is a promising, pretty strong collection of songs which all just happen to sound like they were written by someone else. Suffice it to say that if you were baffled by where Radiohead went after "OK Computer", or ever wondered where the Verve might have gone after "Urban Hymns", then this album is for you.