Dead Leaf Echo is a dream-pop/shoegaze/ “nouveau wave” trio from Brooklyn. They’re heavily influenced by the music from the heyday of 4AD Records, and while listening to the album, it’s hard sometimes to remember that they’re from 2013 rather than 1992. You don’t have to know me very well to know that all of this adds up quite nicely for me. This new record, their debut, is a perfect fit in my record collection.
I should point out that this was a submission to the mailbag. I’m always accepting submissions to the mailbag. Just click on the “Mail Bag” link at the top of the page, where you’ll be directed to my electronic and physical mailing addresses. I like band bios and photos, which make my job a little easier. So send your submissions my way.
As you know from my recent run of posts about new records from Saint Marie Records, I’m pretty excited about the recent early-90s revival. While a lot of those fit under the “sounds like Slowdive” umbrella, this one is something else. Obviously there are times when I’m reminded of Slowdive while listening to Thought & Language, but I’m reminded even more of the brilliant and often underrated Pale Saints. And I always feel the need to point out that when I talk about the brilliance of Pale Saints, I’m mostly talking about what they did from 1989 to 1992. While I have no beef with Miriel Barham, the band suffered when Ian Masters left in 1993. Their final record was nothing to sneeze at, but it pales in comparison to the stuff when Ian was still on board.
We’re not here today for the purpose of talking about Pale Saints. We’re here for Dead Leaf Echo. The point, though, is that this song has some bits from 1:20 to 1:40 and from 3:00 to 3:20 that are really reminiscent of some Pale Saints stuff. Like if they mashed together the choruses from “Baby Maker” and “Throwing Back the Apple”. Later on on the DLE album, there’s a song called “Dream of the Soft”, which brings the Pale Saints song “Sight of You” to mind.
I like every song on the new Dead Leaf Echo record, but “Kingmaker” is the one that I keep going back to. This is that song:
“Kingmaker” by Dead Leaf Echo
While Thought & Language was created under the influence of 4AD, they also had some help from some really important players from those glory days. The album was produced by John Fryer, who production credits include:
- the magnificent and criminally ignored Blow by Swallow
- a few albums for the Cocteaus
- all three This Mortal Coil records
- a few records by Wire
- Depeche Mode
That list goes on and on, but Fryer also, incidentally, worked with Pale Saints on one of their early EPs.
Also, the album cover and artwork for Thought & Language was designed by the legendary Vaughan Oliver, whose v23 and 23 Envelope Studios did the artwork for almost every album on 4AD in the early-mid 1990s.
While this album has those influential hands all over it, the band show that they earned the help of those giants. It’s a dazzling, sparkling, hypnotic record equal to or greater than each of its influences. I’d put this alongside In Ribbons any day of the week, and everybody knows how I feel about In Ribbons.
For extra credit, please watch the official video for “Kingmaker” here:
You can buy a download of Thought & Language from the band’s bandcamp page