Tuesday, May 14, 2013


TEA LEAF GREEN "In the Wake"
Greenhouse Records, released May 14, 2013

Some 15 years and 8 studio albums on, San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green has concocted a delight for the ears with its most recent effort, “In the Wake.”  One look at the cover art (courtesy of TLG guitarist Josh Clark) sets the stage for a throwback, 70s-esque listening experience, as does a lyric from the solid opening track, “Someday:”   

“We’ve got nothing to lose but our minds”

All three of Tea Leaf Green’s songwriters get some groove time, giving the collection a variety of styles and textures, but through it all, the album hangs together beautifully.

“Space Hero pt. 2” – likely as rocking as this band’s going to get – got me to wondering what happened to part one.  Then I noticed parts 3 and 4 also appeared on the playlist.  Keen to determine whether playing them in sequence might open a gateway to another dimension, where Lovecraftian Elder Gods slumbered through eternity, I immediately did so, and conclude that Josh Clark may be saving the entire Space Hero rock opera cycle for a solo release – or maybe they just abandoned its totality in the recording of the album.  There’s no sign of any parts showing up in TLG’s live sets as yet, but maybe they’re waiting to add in the new songs until after they’re released.  Not an unsound business strategy, I suppose.

“Penny Saved” incorporates unlikely disco strings and equally unlikely disco horns to entrancing effect.  It was, in fact, at this point in the album I finally dove (or was pulled) below the surface, fully immersed in the sonic experience.

For whatever reason, swimming from one cut to the next just seemed like the best way to explore the album.  Each song appeared on the milky horizon and slowly floated by, fluidly revealing different angles and aspects, like an animated cubist painting.  Some turns were lovey-dovey, some trippy, some funky, some like a whale song, some bearing gypsy romantic flair à la DeVotchKa.

By the time I swam through to “Space Hero pt. 4,” I realized I’d been “underwater” for some time and came up for air, enveloped by a bombastic crescendo I can only characterize as “epic.”

Bobbing on the surface of this musical ocean, the last two tracks brought things full circle, first with the psychedelic “Mr. E and the Cosmic Receptacle,” which would have been a fine closer for the album, and then the burlesque “We Aren’t Done.”  This track is carnival-esque without being menacing and reminded me of the last album I enjoyed most by the band, 2008’s “Raise Up the Tent.”  Not that all TLG albums don’t have their moments, but this one boasts a cohesion and playfulness that leads me to believe it will be remembered as one of their best.  Tea Leaf Green’s “In the Wake” is a psychedelic journey worth taking.

And, one of the final lyrics seems a fitting conclusion: 

“There’s nothing wrong with acting like a child”

# # #

No comments: