Those Barren Leaves – W.I.A.B.R.
At first look at the cover art of their 2nd album, I thought this would be problematic. Some heavy-duty music — far from roots music, Americana, or folk-interpreted showcase.
I was wrong. But I was unfamiliar.
This Scandinavian band Those Barren Leaves (the duo of Marit & Martin Deubler Holmlund) takes their name probably from the Aldous Huxley novel Those Barren Leaves. This new CD starts with a female vocalist the sounds refreshing & pleasant on “Feel” a potent, melodic cut with a little more kick than The New Seekers (from Australia).
More rock-oriented is “Million Forever” which is nuclear-powered pop with the same dynamic as Holland’s Gruppo Sportivo from the 70s (the band I believe is still recording & performing). The synth washes are slick, but the guitars & drums are drenched in a shimmering melody with liberal drops of late-career Abba-like arrangements. Just never that sweet & commercial. So far this effort is appealing & the songs work.
W.I.A.B.R. (Drops Sept 9–Hemifran) it was produced by the band & Kristoffer Ragnstam (drums). 12 songs, 53-minutes & performed diligently. The vocals whether Marit & Martin are warm, expressive & sung in English. The music is performed tight & has well-punctuated instrumentation. It was a pandemic piece-by-piece production made primarily at home & then drums & keys were added.
People make a big deal about this, but rock bands have been tracking in the studio for decades. It’s nothing new, it’s not adept with a personal touch since many times musicians add their flair with no other musicians present. But this effort has no shortage of melodies in the repertoire & all their pop craft is applied cleverly since it’s not rooted in American cliches or blueprints. There’s a nice rural pastoral mix to the music. Well done.
Some songs hover in a more progressive rock atmosphere – the way rain clouds drift across the sky, but it never rains. “After the Storm,” is made in this style with its at times Caravan with Pye Hastings setting. The compositions vary – sometimes colorful, sometimes darker as “By Your Side,” — rooted in the stylizations of Brendan Perry & Dead Can Dance. Impressive.
All songs by Those Barren Leaves with additional keyboards by Klas-Henrik Horngren (6 songs).
Highlights – “Read Between the Lines,” “Hang Low,” “Crossroads,” & the excellent title tune “W.I.A.B.R.”
Images courtesy of TBL Facebook. CD @ https://hemifran.com/news/detail/p/972/Those%20Barren%20Leaves/W.I.A.B.R./