Write down this name – Keri Latimer. This is the name of the angelic voice that is at the heart (and soul) of Leaf Rapids, a Canadian pop folk outfit. If you’re a fan of a few of our favorites around here – the Spring Standards and Lake Street Dive – you will love this alt folk group. Leaf Rapids are a trio (Devin Latimer, Steve Dawson) and they go together perfectly. This album, Lucky Stars, is just about as delightful as anything I’ve heard this year. Listenable, relaxing, and reminiscent of an era in music that we could desperately use again – the 1970s.
“Virtual Machine” opens with some soothing vocals and relaxing pop rock feel. It’s romantic and comforting throughout the song. The second track “April,” reminds me of The Belle Brigade’s harmonies. The sonic structure is much more folk than the opener, including just the right of jangle in the banjo. The three-part harmonies really do it for me. (And side note – the album is really well mixed. I don’t have the technical training to say exactly what makes a mix work, but let’s just say the parts are nicely balanced, creating an easy-to-listen-to feel.) The theme is spiritual and the ethos is rural; I suppose you’d call this Canadiana.
“Everything in Between” is an excellent groove track. It’s got that bluesy backbeat that gets you moving. It’s not a dancefloor rocker, so much as a “sit with a drink and sway” song. Again the harmonies are great, but the understated electric guitars really make this one pop. It’s in that Fleetwood Mac smooth 70s rock vein. The guitar riffs live right on the border between country and pop rock. They’re great. It’s potentially my favorite track on a really solid album. (Oh and it’s a well-hidden love song.)
I think “Don’t Be Scared” might be the exact chord progression from Eagles “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” not that it’s a bad thing. It’s comforting, as it’s supposed to be, and the kind of thing you’d expect to hear on that AM Gold collection. The slide guitar is just sublime. It’s the track most fittingly in the “country” genre on the album.
The title track, “Lucky Stars” is a down tempo waltz. Don’t let the slide guitar fool you. Just count it out… one-two-three, four-five-six. Let it sway. Feel it? Yep. That’s a waltz. Sorry I got a little carried away there. Anyways, it’s part country, part 50s love song, and totally perfect for this comfortable collection. “Healing Feeling” shifts back to a purer rock feel. The guitars really sell it as a tougher attitude track. It’s a call for a doctor or poet to help with her lovesickness. It accurately navigates the line between cheesy and really good pop. Nicely done.
“Vulture Lullaby” might be one of my favorite ironic song titles. I mean, who hasn’t watched vultures circle and circle in a way that lulls you to sleep? Maybe it’s just us country folk, but I’ve definitely been there. I’ve never thought of vultures as being particularly majestic, but the structure of the song, full of plenty of minor chords, gives the feeling of the beautiful impending doom of the carrion. This is an understated Canadiana masterpiece that, frankly, I find difficult to explain. Just give it a listen. Spines will tingle.
“Agent of the Night” is an adventure song. It makes you feel like you’re hearing about a mysterious character. I think it’s potentially about a private investigator – or something symbolic and existential. Regardless, it has a complexity and a “western” feel to it that’s sure to make a lot of fans out of the band. The final track “The Man Who Sold the World” is a really curious tune. It’s got some of the more experimental elements on the whole album. It feels like the wild open spaces of the Canadian frontier. The chill rock vibe of the song is the perfect ending to a fantastic, adventurous album.
Leaf Rapids are a good band and their lead singer – do you remember? I told you to write it down. Keri Latimer. They are an excellent combination. While I could hear her doing a stripped down solo album, she really is the perfect tone for a counterpart to the twangy guitars in Leaf Rapids. In many ways the guitars are their own “part” in the band. All told, this is an album for fans of folk and folk rock, mostly. If you like to have your ears take a trip to parts unknown and meet mysterious, intriguing characters along the way, this is the album for you. It’s an adventure in three part harmony.