So! There have been a few people who have expressed some interest in me recommending bands and music that I like, so instead of just sporadically mentioning bands here and there to people in replies and whatnot, I thought I might test out doing a rec post for a band each week.
Carbon Leaf is a five-member indie rock group with a richly eclectic and diverse folk/Celtic/Alt-country sound. Yeah, I know. Despite their extremely distinctive sound their music is incredibly hard to pin down to one genre, partially due to the fact that they are constantly experimenting with tones and styles of music with every album that they produce. Since their first album Meander was released in 1995 they have produced 9 full albums and two live albums, each one slightly different from the last and yet just as lovely. The one downside to this is that it can be a little difficult to choose where to start when it comes to listening to their music, so I’ll give you a rundown of my favorite albums of theirs as well as some of my favorite songs off of their other albums.
Indian Summer, the band’s first album on the label Vanguard Music, is without a doubt one of my favorite if not my absolute favorite album of all time. It is one of those rare albums that blends into a cohesive and wonderfully constructed whole while still having each and every song stand on its own merit. The album starts off with Life Less Ordinary, a song that is easily one of my favorites and one that never fails to put a smile on my face. Many of the songs on the album are like that - bright and cheery with extraordinary touches of depth, such as in the song What About Everything? that seems like a simple bouncy tune but that contains lyrics that will surprise you. There are also more melancholy songs as well, such as the reflection on loneliness of adulthood in One Prairie Outpost or the desperation of watching a loved one struggle with sadness and despair in Paloma (another of my favorite songs).
Echo Echo was the album that introduced me to Carbon Leaf over seven years ago, and I still love it just as much now as I did as a fourteen year old just discovering the joys of good music. This album is wildly different from Indian Summer, embracing the Celtic roots of folk music and exploring how to weave those roots into their modern sound. Once again the album starts strong once more with the incredibly catchy song The Boxer that I can almost guarantee will get stuck in your head and not cause you to regret it. The jig-like Mary Mac is much the same, showcasing the rapid-fire singing ability of Barry Privett and sending your feet tapping in the process. Toy Soldiers is a look a the slow drift from home and the familiarity of youth, and Torn to Tattered is a quieter song that feels very much like a slow and steady summer afternoon.
Those two albums are of course only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Carbon Leaf’s music. They have seven other wonderful albums that all vary slightly in tone but still stay true to the band’s talent and passion. Their early music is not to be missed, as it showcases their folk music strengths as well as the playfulness and sheer inventive genius of their lyric writing. Attica’s Flower Box Window (Shadows in the Banquet Hall) from has what very well may be some of my favorite lyrics of any song ever, with the breathlessly fast and silly sounding words actually containing a fabulous message of freedom, independence, and self-determination (I strongly recommend reading the lyrics along with the song in order to catch them all). American Tale (Ether Electrified Porch Music) will get your feet stomping, as will Ordinary Eyes from that same album. And if Learn to Fly (Love Loss Hope Repeat) does not lift your spirit up or The War Was In Color (Love Loss Hope Repeat) does not bring a tear to your eye I will have to give you a long hard look and question your choices.
It is not a difficult choice for me to make to say that Carbon Leaf is my favorite band. Ever. Their music has been the soundtrack to my life for years now, and I can only think that it will continue to be so for many years to come. The band is still producing amazing music and touring, and I cannot wait to see what they will do next.