The Sleeper is lush, pastoral and very English
Jon Lusk 2009
Released just as the daffodils are on the wane, the confident debut album by this Brighton/London-based group suggests they've been hard at work over the winter, in spite of their moniker. The Sleeper is lush, pastoral and very English, but also peppered with wistful American influences from simpler times – most obviously the 1960s. Though occasionally twee and chocolate box pretty, it's garlanded with lovely melodies that soon anchor themselves in the memory.
Singer/multi-instrumentalist Nick Hemming (ukulele, mandolin, banjo, guitar) and keyboardist Christian Hardy form the core of the group, with impressive arrangements also featuring strings, flute, pedal steel, glockenspiel, and thumb piano among other instruments. Hemming's voice is easy on the ear,
whether unadorned or cloaked in close harmonies that sometimes echo The Beatles. The closest comparison might be The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon – without the sardonic humour – but there are other times where both his tone and the tunes suggest influences as diverse as Squeeze, The Kinks and Teenage Fanclub.
The Leisure Society's debut single The Last Of The Melting Snow is a swooning, instantly accessible waltz and was deservedly lapped up by BBC radio at the end of last year. New single A Matter Of Time is even better – an ambitious, multi-layered song that unfolds over six minutes with the inexorable, melodic logic of all great pop music.
The album does sag significantly on its second half, beginning with The Darkest Place I Know (where style wins out over content), the lightweight ditty Are We Happy? and the pleasant but unexceptional country chug of Come To Your Senses.
But there are enough other highlights to ensure The Sleeper adds up more than two great singles and some filler. The post-apocalyptic nature imagery of the title track hints at Fleet Foxes, while A Short Weekend Begins With Longing sounds like a lost artefact from San Francisco’s Summer Of Love. We Were Wasted shamelessly nicks the guitar motif from Leonard Cohen's The Stranger Song to nifty effect, and the euphoric rush of Love's Enormous Wings has a satisfying sense of resolution, which makes it a fitting closer.