We Are Leif release their album Breathe today, September 9th, with a launch gig at Pizza Express in London. This follows a couple of years in which they’ve steadily built a reputation for grooving, soulful jazz with a self-conscious reference to R&B, New York sounds of sophisticated neo-soul and a hometown Bristol relaxed vibe. There’s plenty of their own personality there however as we’ve heard on an EP, a couple of singles and videos that have popped up of invited audience sessions at Bristol’s Forge. Now we get to hear the full album, 10 tracks mainly penned by drummer Mark Whitlam and singer Louise Victoria, with a cover of Snow Patrol’s Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking.
The opener Transition hooks the listener immediately with a snappy vocal riff that sets the band up who drop right into the pocket with a liquid groove. Louise Victoria clear toned -with-a-warm-edge vocal has an introspective air. It imbues the whole set with an intimate feel. The nod at Gretchen Parlato that the band offer is apposite and the bookend at the other of the set, Reverie has a similar vibe, with Chris Jones’ bass chords casting a spell, Victoria’s vocal and the band layering rhythm and jazzy, snaking harmony on top. They’ve got a way with a melodic hook too. Skip to Love has another infectious vocal riff over an insistent polyrhythmic groove, Love Review is soulful funk and a hook that as strong ear-worm potential and Rainy Day a joyfully sing-able backing vocal riff. I’ve Found You builds to an anthemic climax with a rockier edge and a string section driving it. There are are darker shades. Winter Peace throbs, pulses and crackles ominously, a cameo appearance from Iain Ballamy enhancing a nordic edge to the atmosphere. Fire has a more urgent edgy feel, Dan Messore‘s guitar adding tension and texture. Dale Hambridge‘s keyboards and piano are everpresent throughout this set, adding just the right texture, fluid singing solo, or grooving pulse, it’s a great performance.
This is We Are Leif’s calling card and its varied set. There are grooves and chilled out feel vibes a-plenty with a good measure of grit in some angular turns in harmony and rhythm and a lightly worn sophistication. This one will be on my play list for a while.