Brooklyn-based art rock outfit Leapling—the alter ego of songwriter Dan Arnes—returns with the ripe sophomore full-length Suspended Animation from Exploding In Sound Records. Fittingly released during a leap year (Arnes named the group after his Feb. 29 birthday), the follow-up to last year’s debut album Vacant Page marks a significant sea change for the group sonically, with the band stripping down their heady, experimental sound to opt for a more refined, vibrant power-pop, comprised of swooning sing-along melodies, robust and angular guitar and tasteful rhythmic sections.
Tracked live with Titus Andronicus guitarist Adam Reich over just three days, the record is immediate from the start, thanks in part to new drummer Alejandro Salazar Dyer. The garage-rock, reflective first single “Alabaster Snow” aptly showcases the album’s focused delivery, with Arnes lamenting about feeling dejected and worn down, atop a bed of boisterous chords paired with meditative, Pet Sounds-esque backing vocals, as he admits “I don’t know what to do/tie me in a bow/or fix me up with glue/I’m broken just like you.”
Themes of self-evaluation, anxiety and the passing of time persist throughout, as seen in the airy “One Hit Wonder”—which begins “Are you lost with indecision, or stuck with tunnel vision?/I know there’s more, just beyond the creaky door”—and LP closer “Time Keeps Tickin,’” where baroque string arrangements, recorded with Ava Luna’s Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez, stun as Arnes croons, “They say that nothing’s ever free/ but time keeps tickin’/I think I’ll be sticking with you.”
And even if there aren’t many traces of the group’s complex, psychedelic-DIY foundation, the group’s newfound explicitness and leaner sound will undoubtedly bolster their ascent towards a wider and even more mainstream appeal.