Heralded by the likes of Mark Radcliffe and Guy Garvey and being on the receiving end of two Ivor Novello nominations undoubtedly helped to raise the profile of The Sleeper, The Leisure Society’s 2009 debut LP. However, the main thing it had going for it was simple; it was a damn fine record filled with wonderful songs.
Now, Into The Murky Water, its follow-up, is about as misleading an album title as you’re ever likely to get, at least musically anyway. It could be said that listening to a Leisure Society record is like having a summer picnic in a daisy-filled field or of taking a stroll through some picture postcard perfect Cotswolds village. Yes I know this might not sound like a ringing endorsement and may even have some recoiling in horror, but really it shouldn’t. For this is beautifully crafted folk-pop drenched in sweeping strings and sprinkled with gorgeous harmonies, perfect for those long summer evenings.
The title track ushers in the album with an almost mariachi style flourish and nails the albums’ colours squarely to the mast. You Could Keep Me Talking fairly races along and thanks to its simple melody is instantly catchy. Single This Phantom Life is an immediate highlight. “If we only knew the answers we could print them up on to t-shirts” muses singer Nick Hemming on an infectious song that is the perfect realisation of their pop sensibilities. However it’s the intriguingly named I Shall Forever Remain An Amateur that is arguably the album’s finest track; an effortless near six minutes that flashes by in what feels like half that time.
Of the slower tracks The Hungry Years fares much better than the saccharine Our Hearts Burn Like Damp Matches which is probably just a bit too twee for its own good, and isn’t helped by heard-it-all before lyrics like “Trust in me and I will trust in you, Hold me close and I will hold you too.” Interestingly on the intro to album closer Just Like The Knife the band makes use of some heavy electric guitar which is a noticeable and welcome departure from the rest of the record. Whether this points the way for a slight change in sound on future efforts remains to be seen though.
Overall, there’s no doubt that a richer, fuller, sound is present on this record, likely caused by a larger recording budget second time round. However, whilst everything is executed with great aplomb here I couldn’t help but feel that some of the innocent, quirky charm that attracted me to The Sleeper seemed to be slightly missing somehow. This is only a minor criticism though of what is a largely enjoyable record.
If you found The Leisure Society’s debut record a little too sickly sweet then your opinion certainly won’t be changed by Into The Murky Water. However fans of the band will not be disappointed by this beautifully arranged and intelligent second offering.
by Steve Candelaria