Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm
We here at HMCMB are big fans of Benjamin Francis Leftwich, as you may have gathered from previous posts and our (fairly) recent INTERVIEW with him. As such you can probably imagine our excitement when we got our hands on a copy of his debut album “Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm”.
The album is an entrancing experience from the very moment you set eyes upon the characteristic artwork that has been so prominent in all of Leftwich’s releases. On this occasion the imagery is more complex and vibrant, suitably mirroring the evolution of Benjamin’s sound from man and guitar on the early EP’s to the full band backing on some of Last Smoke’s most memorable tracks. The music itself is wholesome yet delicate with each track seeming to merge seamlessly into the next. Upon first listen it can be a little challenging to decipher the hypnotic, tapestry of the LP into it’s individual tracks. As the ear adjusts however the patchwork unravels to reveal subtle differences in themes and melody throughout each thread (or song if the quilt metaphor is becoming too much) that gives each its own defining character. Together it is those subtle differences, the ebb and flow of each track, that transforms the album into more than the sum of its parts.
The opening, “Pictures”, is suitably entrancing and absorbing, showcasing the purity of Leftwich’s voice that will be so comfortingly familiar to old fans and so alluring to new. “Box Of Stones” is the lead single from the album and appropriately a stand out track, the seafaring themes conjure languid imagery at one with the pace of the piece, the ghosted vocals add additional tender depth. Nautical themes run throughout “Last Smoke” with the comparatively up-tempo “Atlas Hands” and “Stole You Away” drawing upon the sea to provide power and depth whilst “Shine” turns to love and yearning to fuel it’s driven pace. Lyrically “Snowship” descends into a melancholy and passion that perhaps finds itself at odds with the beguiling instrumental and tender crooning. Laced with warnings, “be careful what you wish for when you’re young”, and bitterness “…with a ditch right behind me that the bitch couldn’t see” there is an element of darkness and anger in the lyricism that you seek, without success, in the vocal timbre. Perhaps this juxtaposition of lyrical ire and sonic ambivalence serves only to make this tale of caution all the more poignant. “Don’t Go Slow” is the ironically titled closing track for one of the most gloriously mellow and introspective albums I’ve heard in a long time and is yet another occasion when the passion of the subject matter seems to conflict with the muted beauty of the music. “Butterfly Culture” is the most hypnotic and mesmerising piece of the LP. The surreal song writing leaves the underlying meaning tantalising out of grasp. Coupled with the haunting yet paradoxically glowing vocals it simply leaves the opportunity for the listener to fill the gaps with their own experiences, achieving the remarkable of making the track personal and moving to every individual fortunate enough to hear it, a genuinely exceptional example of artistry from Leftwich.
“Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm” is a truly poignant piece of craftsmanship, a journey both comforting and challenging that points to a bright future for Benjamin Francis Leftwich, especially if he can continue to evolve and develop his sound exploring new and perhaps bounteous avenues! Even better news is the fact that the album is in stores today, or alternatively purchase-able, highly recommended, from iTunes HERE. If that’s still not enough good news for you Leftwich is currently running a competition, Ed Sheeran-esquely, in which 4 people can win the chance to have him perform live for them in their very own home. Full details are available HERE and it is a truly fantastic opportunity, rumour has it that one HMCMBer may have already entered… So get your entries in quick, aka before the 6th! Here is the link in full just in case you missed it first time: http://www.benjaminfrancisleftwich.com/competition-to-win-a-gig-at-your-house/
Check out Atlas Hands and Box of Stones from his album below.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Box Of Stones
Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Atlas Hands