Monday, October 24, 2011

Album Reviews with Kerin: Benjamin Francis Leftwich's 'Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm'

If you asked me a few weeks ago, I would say it was purely by accident that I stumbled onto Benjamin Francis Leftwich's music video for his single, "Atlas Hands". Now, however, I liken it something more equivalent to fate because the album from which it stems, 'Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm', has become one of my most played records in recent years. In fact I was so hooked that I played the song once, downloaded the entire album on the spot and never looked back.

The video that captivated me is a narrative of imaginary characters wandering around on a beach, searching for something in the swirling tentative melodies that Leftwich weaves together throughout the entire track. It isn't long before his quietly-sung lyrics begin to unravel into a heartbreaking plea best summarized in the chorus; "I will remember your face/'Cause I am still in love with that place/When the stars are the only things we share, will you be there?". Lets face it, the man had me twenty paces behind at the neon flashing signs of 'this is a depressing song', and by "had me" I mean in tears, because there is nothing I love more than a song that makes you cry the first time you hear it.

'Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm' is just as achingly beautiful as the single that represents it. From start to finish Benjamin Francis Leftwich takes you on a touching journey of realizations of life, love and loneliness. Made up of entirely guitar and piano (and the occasional soft voice of a girl who matches Leftwich stride for stride in her haunting tentativeness) -- noticeably absent are the drum and bass that would have made up the rhythm section -- he sings over understated chord progressions that flow into one another from song to song, making for an entire sensory experience. My particular favorites are "Box of Stones", "Don't Go Slow" and "Shine", but don't be mistaken; I have cried through this entire album. For no reason at all (unless you count "why can't I make music as perfect as this" as a reason. I'm trying not to). I have also fallen asleep to it on a train and nearly missed my stop because it is incredibly soothing to listen to. Fans of City & Colour and Death Cab For Cutie (circa the good, really depressing stuff a la 'Trasatlanticism') will fall in love as I have. Let me know if you do so we can cry together and talk about our feelings.

Here's the video that first stole my heart. Check out Benjamin Francis Leftwich's "Atlas Hands":

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