The Dead Leaves
Cities On The Sea
12 Track, LP (2012, Liberation Music)
Related: The Dead Leaves, Matt Joe Gow.
Vocalist Matt Joe Gow will forever cop flack for his Matt Berninger-intonated vocal pitch on this record; it’s the way the music industry works. Some will unquestionably loathe how close he gets to the vino-swilling National frontman’s lower-register bass-baritone, while others will embrace the connection. Similar to the Jack Ladder/Nick Cave analysis, this is just one of those maddening associations that Gow will have to deal with. What does work in the one-time country troubadour’s favour – like Ladder’s records – is that you cease hearing links the longer you immerse yourself in the LP. Why? Because when you bypass the superficialities, Gow’s vocal actually doesn’t range anywhere near Berninger’s deep-seated growl, so the contrast becomes futile.
Sonically, guitarist/arranger Andy Pollock’s leads are measured in the verse and wired in the chorus breaks (‘Spare Parts’, especially), while drummer Joel Witenberg plays much more than your standard 4/4 beat. Gow himself tends to mix it up by swinging between flat-line baritone, borderline spoken-word and breathy, higher-register vocals throughout. New Zealand’s Gin Wigmore (‘This Living’) and Emma Louise (‘Changing’) guest on vocals, and The Dead Leaves even close out Cities on the Sea with a stripped-back interpretation of Talking Heads’ ‘This Must Be the Place’ (Naïve Melody). These inclusions add depth and mellowness to the mix, while disproving the notion that they’re merely your next big throwaway indie thing. Cities on the Sea catches Gow simply substituting his roots background for the realms of operatic rock, and he’s made the transition appear seamless.
by Nick Argyriou