A Great Big Pile of Leaves - You're Always on My Mind
Record Label: Topshelf Records
Release Date: July 2nd, 2013
As any avid music fan will tell you (whether they review albums or not), the seasons have an inherent effect on what you’re listening to. There’s no trick to this; sometimes a band may record in the winter in order to solidify a summer release, giving off the vibe of carefree nights and warmth of sunlight pumping through your veins. Maybe they decide to write the album in the fall to capture the reds and oranges, or even the rainy grey imagery that mirrors the hoarded feelings about to be conveyed. Either way, when these records are released, they have a habit of capturing the perfect image of wherever our lives happen to be at that period of time. For me, Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica will always mean sleepy bus rides through snowy streets towards the end of high school, and Title Fight’s Floral Green will always remind me of the chilly November nights spent with my girlfriend and friends on college campuses their freshman year.
This matters because of the power music has to create memories. It matters because music also has the power to evoke them later on. And finally, all of this matters to me because the smooth “oooh’s” sang to open A Great Big Pile of Leaves’ sophomore effort, You’re Always On My Mind, will forever symbolize the ending of a summer and the beginning of my freshman year at college. Vocals slide seamlessly into energetic guitar-lines throughout “Snack Attack”, as frontman Pete Weiland sings “You never deliver in the times when I need you”. It’s one of the most effective opening tracks you’ll hear all year, representing both the musicianship soon to be heard and the relatability of Weiland’s lyrics, all while managing to be one of the strongest moments on the record. It’s this knack for indie-pop hooks and a relaxed flow during You’re Always on My Mind that make songs like “Slumber Party” such immediate standouts. While Weiland sings about “midnight swimming”, one can’t help but be overwhelmed with nostalgia. Whether or not you’ve been midnight swimming is irrelevant, because you know exactly the feeling he’s conveying.
Fortunately, Weiland does nothing to overshadow his bandmates; each instrument plays its own important role in the mix, often neck-and-neck with his unique vocal delivery. Fuzzy bass drives the verses of “Flying Fish”, boasting one of the best and catchiest choruses on the record (“It’s a big, big big, big sea/And I’m just a little fish gone swimming”). “Pet Mouse” could easily be one of the goofier Motion City Soundtrack cuts, circa-My Dinosaur Life, and I’m not just saying that because of Justin Pierre’s fitting guest spot during the bridge; quirky guitars race to match Weiland’s oddball lyrics. This lyricism often works to the band’s advantage, but can also be their biggest flaw, with some lines feeling slightly clumsy (“When I’m in the mood, I think you’re pretty rude”). The album is as cohesive a listen as they come while often experimenting with several instrumental styles, from the upbeat bluesy guitar that bounces around “Back to School” to the soothing underlining of "Egocentrism". This kind of variation plays to AGBPOL’s strengths, and you won’t find a snoozer in the bunch here (aside from the somewhat forgettable “Ambiversion”).
As an added incentive, Matt Fazzi recently added his well-executed guitar riffs to the band as a permanent number…Fazzi is best known for being a part of Taking Back Sunday’s New Again, and I promise you, this album is superior to New Again in every way. I suppose the two aren’t necessarily comparable, but I felt it had to be mentioned. While the acoustic slow-burner “Locus of Control” by all means could have closed out the album on a high note (with just the right amount of percussion to make the track feel fuller), the band really sums up everything they do best with “Pizzanomics”. As the outro of the song builds up from its jazzy beginnings, Weiland closes the record with a clever quip about frogs and mowing the lawn. It’s a slightly off-kilter ending to a slightly off-kilter album, and A Great Big Pile of Leaves wouldn’t have it any other way.
Upon the first few spins, I had trouble placing where You’re Always On My Mind might belong seasonally. It is now fall…the album was released in July, containing its fair share of post-summer anthems as well as wintery undertones. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that some records are meant to transcend the time in which you discover them. This is more than feel-good music. This is music that understands exactly what you’re going through, and proceeds to explain why everything is going to be alright. That’s exactly what I needed to hear at in this stage of my life, and that’s why musicians like A Great Big Pile of Leaves should always be on our minds.
I think you just made me officially want to give this band a second chance. Loving the bridge of "Pet Mouse."
I've been putting off Jillette Johnson and Austin Lucas way too long...definitely sometime this week, now that midterms are over. Pierre is a perfect fit for the song. Were you not a fan of their first full-length?