Folk-pop sweethearts The Leisure Society release their third album Alone Aboard the Ark, seemingly hot on the heels of 2011’s Into the Murky Water. Their story is the stuff of musician fairytales. Band gets together, band releases single, band gets nominated for an Ivor Novello, get signed, quit their day jobs, and full-time musicianhood ensues. Tours with Laura Marling, the wonderfully folky incestuous nature of The Wilkommen Collective, and all seems rosy for The Leisure Society.
So after a gestation and recording period at none other than Ray Davies’ Konk studio, out pops album number three. With a tracklist of wordy titles, literary and religious references, and a bit of wordplay, this bundle of melancholic joy marks another successful milestone for the band.
Alone Aboard the Ark sees an expansion in sound, with the band pushing their instruments further and bringing new noises into the mix. ‘A Softer Voice Takes Longer Hearing’ has a soft shuffle, and ‘Fight Alone’ begins with an uplifting fanfare, and forays into a synth riff, before planting itself firmly in the camp of The Leisure Society’s happy folk charm, with a bigger, more diverse set of campers than usual.
‘All I have Seen’ is quintessential Leisure Society, a slow, waltz-like three time, and that gentle sound of reassuring motion that they do so well, augmented by soulful do-wops. Falling leaves, floating downstream, or sitting in a rocking chair, the band create both sonically and lyrically a feeling of gently reassuring motion.
The rhythmic piano opening of ‘Everyone Understand’ bears an uncanny resemblance to Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Come on Feel the Illinois’, and the motif occurs several times throughout, but the chugging acoustic guitar which follows takes it in a different direction, with added flourishes of Spanish guitar.
The title track is the centrepiece of this album, with an offbeat swing, and slowing to a jazzy rallentando. The lyrics allude to the drudgery of the modern world, “The 9 to 5 and 6 to 10″ whilst juxtaposing it with more traditional images of suffering –”I cannot walk/But I can crawl”.
‘The Sober Scent of Paper’ alludes to the life of Sylvia Plath, adding to the lyrical depth and context on this album previously lacking in their work. The subtitles of this new, larger sound encompass a wider range of influences, putting them alongside bands like Belle And Sebastian in terms of diversity and individuality. Alone Aboard the Ark is an album that moves The Leisure Society forwards, outwards, and upwards, as a band that continues to grow into their story.