I don't think there's anyone who can say that Luke Leighfield isn't talented. He's young, only 24, and is coming out with his fourth studio album, New Season, to be released on March 16th. He's also done session work, recorded for TV and satellite radio, and performed a slew of performances and festivals across the world, as well as runs his own record label and has come up with some intriguing guerrilla marketing campaigns. Leighfield was classically trained but spent his teen years at underground punk shows and those two influences combine quite nicely into a piano-driven alt singer-songwriter style.
Many of the songs start simply with Leighfield on the piano and then build in layers of drums, guitars, and horns that crescendo into an emotional high. Overall I found the compositions and layering incredibly thoughtful, especially impressive considering Leighfield's relative youth. His songs have a richness and a weight to them, almost an air of expectancy, that I think is due to the album's reflective tone. My favorite track, "New Season", is one of the few that launches straight into an energetic alt-pop sound that immediately lifted my spirits. I also really liked the song "Time" for the same type of upbeat energy, coupled with some self-deprecating humor. The track, "The One Thing," is musically beautiful and soaring in its scope. I can definitely picture his songs getting picked up for soundtracks, as they would add well to other story-telling mediums. His themes throughout the album are ultimately ones of hope and renewal, but I did feel like there was a little bit of back story that was hinted at but not told. Which brings me to my next point.
The biggest issue I have with the album are the lyrics. Initially I thought many of the tracks were love songs, but something told me to pause and take a closer listen, and in the end I could only interpret many of the songs as devotional. Being spiritual isn't my problem; my issue is that there are a lot of sweeping generalizations of abstract concepts, such as "people starving to death" and "when a good man dies", that I felt put in too much distance from connecting with the artist. This is where I wanted more of that back story that was hinted at since I felt his most successful lyrics were the ones where he is singing about his personal experiences or relationships. The best thing about a great song is when we the audience can hear something in the lyrics that make us say, "Hey, me too!" Leighfield's abstract images thrown on top of a really big sound runs the risk of sounding schmaltzy rather than relatable. However, Leighfield sings with a lot of sincerity and un-ironic passion, which I completely applaud. I just don't think he's risking himself emotionally in the lyrics and that isn't doing the rest of his talent justice.
What I'd love to see is Luke Leighfield bringing his lyric writing skills up to the same level as his serious music-writing chops, because then I think he will be a serious force to be reckoned with. In general I think this album has a lot going for it and if you are a fan of singer-songwriters don't let what I've critiqued here stop you from checking out this piano-rich album.
To learn more about Luke Leighfield visit his tumblr and myspace sites.