Though I had discovered Leapling’s 2013 EP, Losing Face, six months too late, it slowly grew into my summer soundtrack this year as I simply couldn’t tear myself away from the five songs. The work seemed to subvert any typical climactic form, using minimalism to their advantage in an incredibly fresh and revitalizing way. The long silences between each song made them feel as if they began with a blank canvas; nothing exploded into chaos, but was loosely contained in calming serenity. I’m confused about why that EP never gained the recognition it deserved, but I hope that changes with Leapling’s upcoming debut, Vacant Page.
“Crooked” feels as though Leapling is finally poking their head above the water, ready to show us just how dynamic they can be. Singer and principal songwriter Dan Arnes has this funny way of playing with softness, turning things into larger gestures than they initially appear on paper. His songs often evoke images of solitude and isolation; we always seem to be looking in from an outsider’s perspective, and this outsider is constantly pushing himself to come forward and be confident in their actions. “If the moon doesn’t show the sun doesn’t know what to think,” he sings on the opening line. There’s always a balance in Leapling’s music, a day vs. night kind of thing that offers a sense of completion, this comes through not just with lyricism but with the infectiously catchy two-liner rhyme schemes and melodies.
The guitar groove that carries the song cuts the air like a knife, making every tiny silence in between as interesting to listen to as the noise surrounding it. Yoni David’s (of Baked) drumming has a similar effect, it’s sparse, but puts the beat in exactly the right place, adding the head-tilting hip-hop vibe to the very indie-rock-oriented song. Add RJ Gordon’s (also of Baked) locked down bass groove, and Joseph Postiglione’s incredibly serene wash of guitar effects and you’ve got an all-star lineup putting together some very fresh sounds.