THE LEISURE SOCIETY are about to release their third studio album Alone Aboard the Ark on April the 1st via Full Time Hobby. This album has it all: horns, keyboards, harmonica, tambourines, flute, strings and downright pretty vocal harmonies. Mastermind Nick Hemming’s confessional singing style is reminiscent of John Darnielle (THE MOUNTAIN GOATS), while the guitar has a smiley, Americana-influenced sound. As told to NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION in an interview, this album’s source material is all over the place, inspired by everything from the London Olympics to the power of a beautiful coastline, from the shock of moving to strange new city to reading Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski. The band consists of six musicians from England, some of them members of Brighton-based WILKOMMEN COLLECTIVE.
Nick Hemming is the principal songwriter and vocalist, Christian Hardy plays keyboards, John Cox on bass guitar, Helen Whitaker on flute, Mike Siddell on violin, and Sebastian Hankins on drums. Parts of Alone Aboard the Ark lean toward expertly crafted folk rock, while others have strong soul and R&B influences. The first single, Fight for Everyone, features the MUMFORD AND SONS horn section, hired in for the album. The track has you hooked right from the beginning, and the song asks you “Is it hard to relax/when you are told that you can never fail?” It’s the keyboards that make it more contemporary, and reference THE KINKS. No surprise as the band collaborated with Ray Davies in 2011, and performed at his Meltdown Festival.
What’s refreshing about this album is that it’s spirited and catchy without being cloying or treacly. THE LEISURE SOCIETY answers the question: Can you write a folk song that isn’t about the woods or glow worms? (I’m thinking of fellow Brit Vashit Bunyan.)
The LP opens with Another Sunday Psalm, a cheerful melody that has all the combined musicianship of the band at the forefront. A Softer Voice Takes Longer Hearing switches gears, with barely-there drums (played with brushes) and lazy-Sunday guitar and piano. Christian and Nick’s notoriously control-freak attitude about mixing is apparent in the way that each part of a song fits together neatly, with just the right emphasis on a section, when needed. Here and there the strings take center stage, or maybe Helen’s flute, or an almost surf-guitar style tone. Tearing the Arches Down leans toward straight rock, with arena style, fuzzy guitar. The Sober Scent of Paper is a quiet, introspective ballad, with a drum track that makes you think of the beach. Life is a Cabriolet, with its happy–go-lucky title, matches hopeful lyrics with punchy, come-along horns that are practically zydeco in rhythm and tone. Nick sings “It’s so good to see you smile/ as we make light of those darker times.” Put this album on, put the convertible top down, and drive to your most stunning coastline for a breath of fresh air. You’ll want to sing along.