Despite this being Jones’ first self-produced record, Leafcutter feels in many ways like a logical sequel to her previous releases, which include two albums with Two Steps on the Water, the self-proclaimed “emotion punk” band she fronted from 2014 to 2018. Like her past albums, Leafcutter is a collection of songs exploring different aspects of her experience as “a deeply emotional trans woman, a lesbian with ADHD.” Her signature vocals – dynamic in their ability to move between syrupy cool and impassioned exclamation – are present as ever at the forefront of this record.
Lyrically, the songs have the confessional intimacy that Jones has become known for. The verses are both poetic and analytic, in a voice that is unmistakably hers. She creates a sound that is at once familiar and unlike anything else that has come before. The atemporal collaging of old and new styles defines Jones’s self-taught approach to production on Leafcutter. She reminds us that everything new is a rearranging and reimagining of traditions.
“I made the whole album on a tiny refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad that I bought off a guy at a McDonalds. 18 months and over 1000 hours of work later, the album is finally finished. As someone diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, I have been almost entirely self-taught as a musician, whether it’s singing, writing songs, learning an instrument, or producing my own music, I just haven’t been able to sit still long enough to get through a lesson. But there have definitely been moments along the way where I have learned a lot from people, like sitting in the studio with Geoffrey O’Connor throughout the process of making Diana, or getting feedback on mixes from my dear friend and superproducer Geryon. Sometimes I wish I could approach learning in a more structured and systematic way, but I get overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities of music, so I’ve always felt more comfortable intuiting my way through things.”
Leafcutter manages to feel both intuitive and unpredictable in a way that calls to mind a classic Björk or Kate Bush album, finding a tentative home in the nebulous definition of art-pop. From above it is a pop record, but from within it resembles a labyrinth overflowing with intricate details that reveal themselves with each listen. Jones’s intuition informs both the album’s pop sensibility and experimentation. One thing that she delivers yet again is a record bursting with songs that get stuck in your head. Leafcutter, insectoid in name, is home to no shortage of earworms.
“One of my favourite albums of all time is Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion. For me, it’s a perfect pop album, with bangers from start to finish. In a funny way, I aspire to achieve that kind of consistency with every album I make. I feel like I am probably more prone to boredom than most, and it’s a state that I find almost painful. If there’s one thing I want to avoid as an artist, it’s being boring.”
And boring this album is not. Every song feels like its own little world which Jones invites us into, where we are asked to sit and feel with her for a few minutes before moving next door to another one, with similarities and differences, made up of things both familiar and strange. On Leafcutter, Jones pulls off the unlikely feat of finding harmony in that which, according to our own intuitions, should be dissonant. In the second last line of the opening track, 'Jenny (Breathe)', she sings “There are as many worlds as minds here to perceive them”, and so too is the case with the quantum art pop of Leafcutter.
Release: February 19th, 2021, Emotion Punk Records/Remote Control
Words: Remote Control