Skygreen Leopards - Family Crimes

by Jim Harris Rating:8.5 Release Date:2014-07-08

The Skygreen Leopards return with still another masterpiece of California sunshine mixed with a little bit of acid rain and murder-at-the-trailer-park folk tales. They sound like something between The Byrds (which they pay homage to with the line "Christian life") and Belle & Sebastian (if they were more up-tempo) with their consistently droll lyrics wrapped around lovable, bouncy, folksy alt-pop.

Everyone has a guilty pleasure in the alternative musical universe and Skygreen Leopards is mine. Their musical esthetic always reminds me of Fountains of Wayne, the way Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson know their way around consistent pop hooks and smart, funny lyrics which spin tales of urban mayhem and quiet angst. And while Fountains of Wayne are far more electric in their delivery, the Leopards spin just as complex and precise tunes, but with softer guitars and synth-pop textures.

Unlike the sharp and jumpy directions this band took on their previous albums, particularly Disciples of California, where they went a little out of their way to call attention to a certain odd musical diversity, Family Crimes settles into a fairly consistent pattern of up-tempo, alternative folk which in no way gets old.

‘Leave the Family’ is the first track and sets the mood and brisk tempo which continues through all 14 brief tracks. It’s not surprising 'love' is in the title of a handful of songs here. Love is in the air on many of these bright and shiny tunes, but more than half the songs have a sinister undertone which adds just the right edge as on ‘It’s Not Love’, with such lines as "Too much blood on the water... Nothing left to say... It’s not love". 

Skygreen Leopards are talented musicians and excellent purveyors of the quirky song. If you are so inclined, Family Crimes just might be their best album yet.

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