by Cole Kinsler (@dustetc)
Leapling is the project of Dan Arnes, and Suspended Animation is his sophomore effort following last year’s Vacant Page. Leapling is now a rock trio in its current incarnation, with drummer Alejandro Salazar Dyer and bassist R.J. Gordon joining Arnes for this album. However, like so many of the bands on Exploding In Sound’s growing roster, they prove that a three-piece can be so much more than meets the eye. On this (leap) year’s Suspended Animation, Leapling sounds more focused, confident, and well... more rock n’ roll than ever.
The shift to a more pop-oriented sound was a conscious one. Arnes was admittedly listening to a lot of 70’s power-pop like Big Star and The Kinks when writing these songs. The difference is palpable; arrangements are tight, drums hit hard, and strings swell into the right songs at just the right moments. “I Decide When It Begins” kicks off the album, and is quite frankly one of the more attention-grabbing album openers I’ve heard in recent memory. There’s a certain swagger to Arnes’ vocal delivery over what begins as a lone drum beat. A beautiful string arrangement eventually fills the gaps between the drums and bass. “You may call the intermission/ make a point in repetition/ you may have the ammunition / but I decide when it begins” he sings as the song starts and stops with unexpected grace. Arnes’ voice has a gentle, floating quality to it, and it gives the album a comforting, conversational tone. His softer moments often recall Jim O’Rourke’s pop melodies and singing-style. “Hey Sister” carries a soft vocal-line over fuzzy layered guitars that lead to an uneasy Jeff Tweedy-style guitar solo worth cranking your speakers for. “Why Can’t You Open Up Your Door” employs a lighter mood over jaunty chords that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Big Star’s Radio City. It’s a simple-yet-catchy chorus that’ll probably stick around in your head after you hear it a few times; “Why can’t you open up your door? / You left me waiting here for more”. The album’s rougher edges make for a diverse sound throughout. “It’s okay / Since we went our separate ways / but you’re always on my mind” Arnes sings over a pulsing bassline and dizzying guitars on “Good Morning (It’s Okay)”. Its meandering guitar lines and solos recall Ira Kaplan’s spacious guitar style. I hear tinges of many great guitar bands throughout this record, but the music never feels forced or unoriginal.
Leapling’s power-pop inclinations have led to an album that’s diverse in its influences, but singular in tone and delivery. Dan Arnes sounds genuine and unassuming as he croons throughout the record. Suspended Animation’s eleven tracks are arguably all “hits” in their own right, but the album still manages to take surprising turns. Although Leapling has returned as a trio, the added instrumental flourishes on Suspended Animation make it an album that’s rewarding to come back to frequently. Like your favorite Big Star album, this is a record you’ll want to put on when the sun is out, when you’re going for a drive with the windows down, or when you’re having a beer with pals.