by Jenny Potter
It’s 5:15pm and we’re standing amongst rows of records, reeling in the late-summer-evening humidity and pretending to browse through DVDs. There are perhaps a dozen people scattered throughout the shop in the same state of pretence.
Approximately twenty minutes later, Leftwich appears and we form a misshapen semi-circle around the corner where he’s positioned himself with his guitar. He begins to sing, opening fittingly with the foremost track from his new album, After the Rain. As he plays, a warm silence envelops the crowd; the sound pervading from After the Rain cushions your soul in a distinctly human way, awakening a sense of communal experience.
Halfway through the set, Leftwich pauses to adjust his guitar clamp. ‘This is very intense, isn’t it?’ he jokes, but with the themes of the music, how could it not be?
It seems Leftwich has discovered a much more refined sound, a gentler sound that’s been honed and perfected during a five year break: the sound of healing. The opening track and first single, ‘Tilikum’, his anguished reflection on the inability to protect those you love from your pain, sets the tone for the rest of the album. As it progresses, we are taken on a journey through the grieving and healing process, through regretful self-destruction and the seeking of salvation in others that precedes a return to normality.
When we reach ‘Summer’, a more constructive, positive sentiment emerges. Things seem to be improving – Leftwich has probed his past and can now move on from it. ‘Summer’ is a wash of relief carrying with it the certainty that the worst has passed.
Finally, in ‘Groves’, the root of the pain felt throughout the album is revealed. A touching tribute to his late father, the song displays helplessness at the loss of a parent. The chorus,
I need you to be waiting for me
Every time I’m home
I’ll be right beside you when you rest your broken bones’
contains a childish selfishness, a denial of the futility that we face in death. It is a haunting sound that colours the tail end of the album. In ‘Immortal’ and ‘Mayflies’, we feel the anxiety of starting again, a timid foray into new love and an intense confusion of emotion. The album ends with ‘Frozen Moor’, in which Leftwich questions the stability of the relationships that remain, a physical and emotional leap of faith in a return to the world.
It’s not just the music that has been so intensely perfected – every part of this album has been meticulously coordinated, down to the vibrant turquoise of the vinyl itself. Each track features a
unique illustration from the beautiful day-dream artwork of Sprankenstein that Leftwich himself recognises the profundity of: ‘I’ll sign the back – it’s too beautiful to write over, don’t you think?’
Lately, Leftwich appears undaunted by any venue: playing to large crowds on tour, to small groups in record shops, even to Facebook Live and its stark lack of intimacy. His charming charisma enables him to tame and captivate any crowd, of which he always seems grateful.
Having been absent for five years, Leftwich’s return to music has been eagerly awaited and with the quality of his latest work, I doubt anyone would begrudge him the time.