ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Andrew Revell

Leaves
"Breathe"

20th May 2004
reviewer: Andrew Revell
rating: 5 out of 5
published by: B-Unique
released: 19th August 2002
  1. I Go Down
  2. Catch
  3. Silence
  4. Breathe
  5. Crazy
  6. Epitaph
  7. Alone In The Sun
  8. Deep Blue Day
  9. Suppose
  10. Race
  11. We

If the Black Eyed Peas had sold as many copies of ‘Where is the Love?’ in Iceland as they did in the UK everyone in Iceland would have 3. For an aspiring Icelandic band that makes it pretty depressing if you want to make a bit of quick cash. Which is something The Leaves deserve - and not just of the amounts they can get in their homeland.

Originally released just 7 days before Coldplay unleashed ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head' 'Breathe' certainly put itself up against some tough competition. Predictably there wasn't exactly a great struggle at the top of the album chart - but for those lucky enough to pick up ‘Breathe’ there is certainly a sense of smug satisfaction; this album is exceptional. Choosing between the two isn't easy - but Gwyneth Paltrow would probably be disappointed in my pick.

Comparisons to Coldplay and Radiohead (specifically the "Bends" era) are all totally justified: they are even listed as influences in the band’s biography, but 'Breathe' never sounds like a carbon copy of their influences.

Things get rolling with 'I Go Down' - imagining a less brash album opener probably isn't possible. This is as laid back as music can get, and is pulled off to perfection. Simple lyrics that perhaps have a different meaning in Iceland to over here. Heart warming isn’t exactly the phrase I’d go for - an ode to providing oral sex to a girlfriend? Maybe.

From then on the album wanders between rousing anthems and more understated songs. 'Catch,' 'Crazy,' and 'Alone In The Sun' head up the category of rousing anthems - all easily capable of filling an empty room. For some reason they all have a real cinematic feel, filling your senses. Very easy to find yourself listening when you should be getting on with something else - probably the mark of an exceptional band.

Other songs are much quieter; 'Silence' is reminiscent of the end of an argument with your partner - the point where you suddenly realise you're being an idiot and that you're wrong. Then common sense comes flooding back, and with it "Soft velvet hands in the air / Followin' me up the stairs." Very eloquent paraphrasing that sums up a feeling rarely related in music. Epitaph is another slower song - stick it in a playlist with REM's 'Everybody Hurts' for maximum effect. A special mention must be made about the ending of 'Epitaph' though - one of the loveliest endings ever committed to CD.

All in all it's a little cracker of an album - the good news is they have just returned to their Reykjavik studio to start work on a follow-up. Here's hoping it'll be as good as this one.