Leaves - Breathe

Even at their most anthemic there's a subdued melancholy amongst the bravado and epic driving melodies. It's deep within their souls. Growing up in Reykjavik they would watch the stars form beautiful patterns in the sky and dream of far off climes where the sun always shines on TV and phrases like "aren't you going to do something with your day" are uttered before the sun sets and the night draws in. But despite the fact that early nights are common place in Iceland, if only to while away the twilight hours, the band still found time to play football with third division team Bardastrandir and plan their first live show at an art gallery converted from a prison.

It's these contradictions between the sensitive and masculine forces which make Leaves one of the more interesting propositions in 2002. Creating vast soundscapes within the constraints of the traditional formats there's an air of claustrophobia and desperation clouding the whole album. Yet at the same time the sense of relief of facing death in the face and walking away the victor. The way "Catch" takes Suede's "Trash", inverts it, displaying a darker underbelly with the sort of defiance that you display when realizing that showing your true feeling would simply be letting them win. The title tracks gospel piano intro before Arnar Gudjonsson's vocals twists and turns the minor key into a funeral march before turning the negative into a positive and singing the last waltz at the school disco.

Never being able to escape the dark days that haunt them the mournful "Suppose" and "Epitaph" have led to live shows, which at times have been a chore to watch, yet on repeated listens of "Breathe" they display the sort of emotional depth which Doves displayed on "The Cedar Room". With an atmosphere which makes dinner parties at Leonard Cohen's look lively it's going to be one of those albums which is brought out in times of need, but rather than simply walk on by the Samaritans of rock face the issues head on and rightfully so.

Alex McCann

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