Last Leaves - Other Towns Than Ours

matcd080  /  October 2017
Last Leaves - Other Towns Than Ours
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Last Leaves - Other Towns Than Ours

matcd080  /  October 2017

A few years after the break-up of much-loved Australian indie stalwarts The Lucksmiths, three quarters of the band quietly got together again as Last Leaves. With songwriter and guitarist Marty Donald assuming vocal duties alongside longtime collaborators Louis Richter (guitar) and Mark Monnone (bass), and joined by drummer extraordinaire Noah Symons (Great Earthquake), they began work on a body of songs that – a few years later again – finally finds release in their remarkable debut album ‘Other Towns Than Ours’.

It’s been worth the wait. The ten songs here showcase a band already at the top of its game, from the perfect fuzz pop of first single ‘The World We Had’ and the irrepressible jangle of ‘Something Falls’ to darker moments like mesmeric closer ‘Where I Lived and What I Lived For’ and the downbeat Silver Jews swagger of ‘The Nights You Drove Me Home’ (“the past is just a single-star motel/It’s nowhere you should dwell/A room to rest awhile”).

Sounding like a lost classic from the Summershine imprint, second single ‘The Hinterland’ recounts a country convalescence: “From an upstairs window at your parents’ place/You saw the sun set where the highway cuts across the hinterland/Tail-lights fading in the twilight/It was more than you could stand”. Meanwhile, the off kilter, psychedelic-tinged country-soul(!) of ‘Third Thoughts’ finds cause for a lover’s lament in the glimpse of a road afforded by a newly fallen tree, and ‘Other Rivers’ showcases some impressive guitar work that will surely please the most zealous Lucksmiths fan.

Musically, Last Leaves is an altogether different beast from their previous band, Symons’ ever-inventive drumming and Monnone’s sinuous basslines underpinning melancholic melodies, and Richter’s guitar veering from fragile to ferocious, often in the course of one song.

The album was recorded by relocated UK producer Gareth Parton (Foals, The Go! Team) over the course of almost three years, between Melbourne’s inner-northern suburbs and the band’s base in the hills to the east of the city. Donald’s move there some years ago is reflected in the satellite towns, country roads and mountainside motels of ‘Other Towns Than Ours’; as ever, a profound sense of place remains central to his songwriting.

Australian customers please note: this is a co-release with the Lost and Lonesome Recording Company. Please support your local label.

Tracklisting:
  1. Love and the World Well Lost
  2. Other Rivers
  3. The Nights You Drove Me Home
  4. Thin Air
  5. Third Thoughts
  6. The World We Had
  7. The Last of the Light
  8. Something Falls
  9. The Hinterland
  10. Where I Lived and What I Lived For

reviews

When the Lucksmiths folded in 2009, fans of their brand of heartfelt, subtly beautiful indie pop no doubt shed many a tear. Some tears for the joy the band's music brought them over the years, some in anticipation of there being no new music in the future. Well, weep no more, because three of the Lucksmiths decided to get back together and make more music as Last Leaves, and their debut album, Other Towns Than Ours, is just as lovely as the Lucksmiths' finest work. Songwriter and singer Marty Donald never stopped writing songs and when he had a decent batch built up, he called up bassist Mark Monnone and guitarist Louis Richter to see if they were game to give the music biz another whirl. With the addition of drummer Noah Symons, the band began working up a sound that had the warmth and tenderness of the Lucksmiths, but which added some muscle to the guitars. Richter and Donald whip up some serious noise throughout the album, either on furious guitar solos or the occasional chugging riff. It's a shock to the system at first, hearing Donald's familiar voice and his usual lovelorn words, then having them blasted out of the room by some loud guitars. The opening tune, "Love and the World Well Lost," is a perfect example of this and sets the scene very nicely for the rest of the album. Fans of the Lucksmiths' gentler side may feel that the guitars are too much, but those who don't mind their pop a little on the scrappy side might find that they add some welcome punch to the typically winsome melodies and melancholy feelings. These adventurous fans will find, too, that Donald has written a strong batch of songs, like the rollicking "Other Rivers" and "Third Thoughts," that conjure up the outskirts of the city where they were written, sweet ballads that rely on quiet arrangements and Donald's unadorned vocals ("The Last of the Light," "Where I Lived and What I Lived For") and few that legitimately rock in a way the Lucksmiths never did ("The World We Had," "Something Falls"). Last Leaves are a near-perfect sequel to the Lucksmiths -- keeping all the things that made them so special and adding some new wrinkles -- and Other Towns Than Ours is a wonderful introduction to their new direction. --All Music Guide

Over the course of a 16-year career, the Lucksmiths became the quintessential indie pop band. The group emphasized melody in crafting their understated songs, using jangly guitars to convey literary reflections. Now three of the four (everyone except drummer Tali White) have rejoined as Last Leaves. The new act feels like a continuation of the old, and they’ll likely retain the same sorts of fans. The original trio, now augmented by drummer Noah Symons, hasn’t stood still, though. Other Towns than Ours contains grittier songs and a few small steps from pop toward rock, all still coated in the same sort of Aussie smithery that drove the first era of their career.  The bouncy “Something Falls,” first unveiled as part of a Matinee compilation last year, stands out. Marty Donald pins down a precise geography’s autumnal scents as he unwinds a relationship narrative. The title phrases plays with town names (presumably not that of ours) and offers a two-word sentence narrating several segments of the story. The album’s first single “The World We Had” moves on its fuzzy guitars, offering a mid-tempo slice of romantic retrospection. It’s a world where kisses last only “briefly,” and, upon reflection, happiness peaks. The search for that missing world raises its own questions about its original legitimacy. Donald hints at nostalgia while holding on to the idea that the beautiful past may have been true.  Memory permeates the album. “The Nights You Drove Me Home” offers a look back at a formative moment. If it’s time to “raise a glass” to the past, the Last Leaves will be the first to pour a round. They sense encroaching loss as well as anyone without despairing of the beauty they find both in experiencing the moment and in remembering the moment. “Other Rivers” sonically, if not lyrically, embraces the discovery of new paths, even at personal cost.  “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” titled like a belated personal mission statement, winds down the album, a patient pacing for these past reflections. For the band’s mildly roughed-up sound, that twee sensibility stills comes through in its earnest (if not always immediate on the surface) heart. Donald and the band have entered new waters, but they’re sailing the same sort of vessel. The changes for previous work are a welcome sign of a new era, and the similarities to the past fit a band of this mindset and help chart a proper course. A backward-looking future is something worth looking forward to (and, of course, enjoying now).  --Dusted Magazine

There are more beautiful, heart-stopping moments on Last Leaves debut album from this year, Other Towns Than Ours, than most bands achieve in whole long careers. It's no wonder really as they're led by Marty Donald, formerly of Australians The Lucksmiths, a band who went their separate ways in 2009. Now, following a hiatus, he's back, with a group supplemented by two other Lucksmiths among others. Perhaps, if anything, Other Towns Than Ours overdoes the poignancy. But there's much here to treasure and admire. Donald certainly has the delicate sensitivity that I loved so much in the songs of Grant McLennan, Robert Forster and David McComb. The understanding that the greatest, most lovelorn literature and poetry was very much the stuff that could be appropriated in the cause of wonderful pop music. Last Leaves, draining the pool for you! --It Starts With A Birthstone

Clearly, you can’t outmuscle “Over Depth” from the turntable. You can only seek to match it, to coax it from hogging the headphones, by focusing on different qualities altogether. To go all Chelsea on you for a sec, you have to be Pat Nevin instead of Micky Droy, the King's Road instead of the Shed End. And thus we turn to “Other Towns Than Ours”, the debut LP by Last Leaves, which provides a different avenue for our reverie. For it was also 1995 when an outfit from Victoria called the Lucksmiths released their first album, “The Green Bicycle Case”, a record we finally got hold of a few years later from Melbourne’s own Gaslight Music, en route from a fry-up in Albert Park to a quick pint in the Elephant. Yes, just as the Sarah Records flame was being snuffed out here in the UK, a new pristine pop band to die for had popped up on the other side of the globe. And, as you’ll know, they went on to conquer the world. Well, to conquer our world, and to tour the real world, and to grace the planet’s finest independent labels with shimmeringly ace records. Twenty-two years on, and too many summers already since the Lucksmiths – in their time, just as prolific as Mick Harris - sadly played their last show, two of the fresh-faced trio who smiled out from the “Bicycle Case” sleeve (‘Martin’ Donald and Mark Monnone) return, with latterday Lucksmith Louis Richter and drummer Noah Symons (who collaborated with Richard Adams and Jason Sweeney's rather fantastic Great Panoptique project). The new combo, Last Leaves, are every inch the band you’d expect them to be: after all, this is a joint release from Lost & Lonesome and Matinée Recordings, who have pretty discerning tastes. We are bound to admit to you that a part of us would have been quite happy for Last Leaves merely to have picked up where the ‘smiths left off, just as – since we’re in confessional mode – we once yearned for the Steinbecks merely to revisit the past glories of the Sugargliders. Yet, just as we learned to let the Meadows brothers take us on new journeys in their second incarnation, so we now give thanks and praise that Last Leaves look to build on past legacies, but to give them new twists and dynamics, on their first long-player "Other Towns Than Ours". This fabulous LP sets stories and vignettes to verse: tales of drives to satellite towns and hidden motels, tales of stealing away and stolen glances, tales of the past as a trove of memories that should never be wallowed in, only visited in moderation. Musically, “Other Towns...” casts its net far and wide: the muscular power pop of “The World We Had”, the sultry 7” “The Hinterland”, or the absurdly ace “Something Falls”, a song so positive, passionate and persuasive that had they only committed it to 45 it would have been Single Of The Year, without the shadow of a doubt… and as the album passes, moods change with the scenery as melodic pop stanzas flit with spirals of guitar, slowed-down bass and drum passages and widescreen ballads. Essentially, you should love this sincere, sweetly-honed record if you fell for any of the great alternative pop bands of recent decades (insert your own list here, although the supernovae we’d nominate might include the Butterflies of Love, Math & Physics, recent Wedding Present, the Go-Betweens - who get a respectful namecheck on “The Last Of The Light” - and, yes, the Lucksmiths). This is a record that helps inculcate us into our favourite season, to soundtrack the leaf fall and the grass dew and the early-morning condensation that fogs the window panes. That, in itself, is worth treasuring. --In Love With These Times, In Spite Of These Times

Marty Donald, who was the chief songwriter in the Lucksmiths took a long break after that band called it quits. It’s great to hear him again, this time doing the singing as well as playing guitar. He’s got most of his former band along with him as well. Last Leaves of course will remind you of the Lucksmiths, but this band is something different in that they look more to classic rock than indiepop or at least infuse their pop with some sharper edges and more serious topics. They call it older and wiser. --The Finest Kiss

The Lucksmiths signed off 9 years ago with ‘First Frost’, singing "here's to who knows what" on South-East Coastal Rendezvous. The what, musically, was a shift towards noisier rusticism that looked more to the American underground than it did to their own indiepop ancestors. If ‘First Frost’ was only a partial shift - it includes a song called ‘The National Mitten Registry’, for fuck's sake - it closed the chapter called "The Lucksmiths" and suggested there was another story to be written. Which is where the Last Leaves and ‘Other Towns Than Ours’ comes in. It does what ‘First Fros’t did - gets its hands dirty, edges backwoods Americana into the late evening sun, wonders what The Byrds might have done if Neil Young had joined instead of Gram Parsons - only better and with bigger riffs. Old habits die hard – ‘Something Falls’ is indistinguishable from The Lucksmiths (I'm definitely not complaining) - but this album has the freshness and vitality of a new band. I can imagine hearing these songs on the radio and seeing this band on a big festival's bill. The more I listen to this album the more I like it. --Did Not Chart

When The Lucksmiths called time in 2009 after 16 years and eight albums they left behind not only half a lifetime producing music of great melodic and structural quality but it was of a style and character that was created in a context which embraced the whole gamut of human emotion, from downcast melancholy to unbridled optimism, emotions conveyed often self-deprecatingly without fanfare, without ego, music created without expectation and importantly, without contracts. Eschewing the limelight and staying true to a DIY mentality allowed the simple aim of writing beautifully introspective pop songs to be placed front and centre giving the band the freedom and license to deliver their wry, witty, politically savvy yet humble and understated observations of what it was to be a holistically receptive human being who is appreciative of all the things life has to offer, however small and however difficult. A way of making music which not only influenced and guided their own path but in turn paved the way in allowing them subsequently to go on to inspire, without being really conscious of it, countless other artists and pop lovers across the independent music world. So the news that two original members of The Lucksmiths, chief songwriter Marty Donald and Mark Monnone along with Louis Richter, who joined in 2005 as an additional guitarist, had reformed in 2012 with a new band called Last Leaves was a more than welcome development. Enlisting Great Earthquakes drummer Noah Symons, the new entity saw Donald take on the lion’s share of songwriting as well as the vocal duties giving his voice to creations that are essentially tender, heartfelt  and deeply personal vignettes on both life’s significant and determinedly diminutive moments. The Last Leaves sound is immediately distinctive to The Lucksmiths in their employment of a more gritty, expansive and exploratory musical palette all the while retaining the undoubted melodic touch. That it has taken five years for their debut album to surface in the form of the outwardly focused and generously titled Other Towns Than Ours, is reflective of just how embedded and invested its members are in variety of other projects in Melbourne’s tight knit but welcoming independent art and music community. Monnone actually created and runs the The Lost & Lonesome Recording Co. as a home for not only Last Leaves but also for a plethora of other bands and artists. And that’s alongside his solo venture Monnone Alone as well as his recent work as bassist for fellow independent travellers The Ocean Party. The five year period is also reflective that the world of work and the everyday pressures of combining that with music is virtually mandatory and actually often beneficial for the well rounded independent artist, even those who have commanded artistic respect for two decades. ‘Other Towns Than Ours’ begins with the beautifully reflective and honest  ‘Love And The World Well Lost’. A seemingly innocuous and spartan melody floats across rolling bass and drums as Donald begins the album with the lines ‘I was abominable, I was a basket case, back then harbouring a broken heart, drinking and frightening my friends no end’. The musical elasticity then metaphorically mirrors in equal measures the hurt and humble self examination which results when a loving relationship ends, ever aware of the myopic and ultimately selfish potential that love can bring. ‘Other Rivers’ continues that trajectory and is an intensely muscular and upbeat treatise on coming to the realisation that perhaps a significant other doesn’t value growth and change in the same way. Nostalgia rings out loud and clear both sonically and lyrically on the contemplative ‘The Nights You Drove Me Home’ which ends in swirling guitars while the flair of ‘Thin Air’ angularly combines traditional arrangements with thrilling guitar melodies and harmonies as ponderous in deed as Donald’s sentiments. The deliberative swoon of ‘Third Thoughts’ with its exquisite timing signature completes the album’s memorable first half with a depth that exudes respect and conviction. The power laden pop of hazy first single ‘The World We Had’ with its raucously nostalgic tonal duality is characterised by an elongated guitar riff that seems to hold back time and space complemented by wistful lead that equally hangs in suspension. The hypnotic like balladry of ‘The Last of The Light’, despite its insistent disposition, provides room for the record to breath and take stock before a acutely heightened chugging like dose of jangle pop makes its long awaited entrance with ‘Something Falls’, a track that grazes as much as it glistens. Energetic second single, ‘The Hinterland’ combines the literal with metaphor as Donald presses the escape button and seeks solace in both mindful solitude and remote expanse. ‘Where I Lived And What I Lived For’ closes the album in a dream like state with a mixture of fragility and strength where regret is just as determined to have its way in memory as fond sentiment. Guitars collide in inexorable fashion as Donald poses the time honoured question posed by the song title. While the work of Last Leaves will undoubtedly be associated with and compared to that of The Lucksmiths, it is more than deserving of its own place in the sun, in the pantheon of heart on sleeve, thoughtfully affecting guitar pop characterised by its carefully structured arrangements and its ability to eye the future and the past simultaneously as different hues of the same colour. Memories and recollections abound but there are always new and independent paths for Donald and co. to forge and make sense of. It’s s worldview that is as connected with the community that spawned and nurtured it as it is in the development of its individual guise, for they are one and the same. Other Towns Than Ours, as its title suggests, is reflective of the fact that all four members of Last Leaves will not only be forever integral as actors in their own musical community but is also indicative of a never-ending curiosity to explore and learn from, with mutual respect, communities other than their own. Within their undoubted pop context, there is clearly an intention to express emotion in its rawest form, honest and unbridled and also espouse the principles essential to human existence, openness, respect and hospitality. Their guard is clearly down. --Indie 30

One of the first impressions a listener may have upon listening to Other Towns Than Ours is how confident the band sounds on their first LP.  And of course, the listener is correct, although the amazement may be tempered a bit upon learning that Last Leaves includes three members of the long-running and beloved Lucksmiths.  The three are long-time songwriter and guitarist Marty Donald, who also is lead vocalist for this band, guitarist Louis Richter, and bassist Mark Monnone.  The non-Luckie is drummer Noah Symons of Great Earthquake. Even with three members of the former group, Last Leaves isn't just a continuation project, but rather a new take on the members' guitar pop vision.  There is plenty of melody, but this band also embraces their guitars' fuzz and rumble as much as the jangle.  Take for example, the grit and swagger in "Love and the World Well Lost" and "The World We Had".  There is a bit of The Posies or Teenage Fanclub here, and you'll never hear us complain about that.  Donald's songs are superbly drawn, with a look back on relationships as well as some peeks forward to the future, resulting in a lyrical atmosphere that is both sentimental and hopeful.  This is great stuff for the folks down under anticipating summer, and for those of us up north trying to hang on to the last vestiges of ours. --When You Motor Away

I’m running out of time, because I would like to get end of the year lists done before all hell breaks loose on the day job in a week or two. So soon I’ll focus on those, but during the next few days I try to go through a couple of important ones that I’ve failed to mention properly. Last Leaves are from Australia. Former The Lucksmith members Marty Donald, Louis Richter and Mark Monnone put together a new band with Great Earthquake’s drummer Noah Symons. They took their time, but the full-length Other Towns Than Ours finally appeared this fall on Matinee Recordings (USA) and Lost and Lonesome Recording Company (Australia). The album is a thoroughly enjoyable and completely worth the wait. It’s quite moody and at times even complex and perhaps therefore not as instantly catchy as one might have hoped or expected. Absolutely no worries though, because it grows on you and even in the beginning there’s certainly more than enough of wonderful pop jangle and beautiful melodies too to keep the pop kids onboard. Great to have these heroes back in this ball game. --One Chord To Another