L.T. Leif is the latest byline for Laura Leif as she turns our solo career into a band endeavor. The former member of HexRay, EMBASSYLIGHTS and Woodpigeon has another release on her hands, the product of two separate, collaborative, sessions that left her with the split album, Shadow on the Brim/Rough Beasts.
The first half of the album followed the Calgary musician to a “warm house in the foohills” of Nova Scotia where two weeks of straight recording left her and collaborator Jay Crocker with enough songs for half an album. Instead of releasing the tracks as an EP, Leif held onto them until another opportunity came around, rounding out the second half of her latest—a two-part LP full of peculiar and accurately tagged drone folk.
“opening” is a far more traditional introduction, Leif’s voice finding that quirky upswing that’s become the staple of modern pop. But just when it seems like you’re settling in for another gentle summer album a faint buzzing begins to come through. Almost inaudible, the background noise cuts in just enough to suggest disruption ahead.
“watery space division” is the first full turn, vaguely country music being warped and wobbled for almost half a minute before abruptly becoming the tortured “there that ambition.” “derelict” and titular “shadow on the brim” ease up Leif’s experimental side, but “under our walking, a cave” makes one last attempt to purge Leif’s dark side with an extended sound-altering open before Rough Beasts takes over.
In a sudden shift, “puff ball thing” is full of the cuteness of its name as Leif sings lightly alongside perky plucking—a theme shared by “dreams like a dog,” although close listening to the lyrics reveals a tragedy behind the rolling notes. “One small bear/his mother was hit by a train/he will not survive,” she sings, unraveling another tragic tale in the lines that follow, as well as a series of Jungle Book-esque adoptions.
There’s a touch of the past to “drk dwllr” that makes the most of Leif’s vocals, climaxing in the rising chorus of “oh my,” a refreshing shift that sets the second half of her split album as the strongest. Stripped and simplified, there’s a richness here to be discovered.
Top Tracks: “dreams like a dog”; “drk dwllr”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)