There is something about the realm of folk music that tends to lend itself to being populated by, shall we say, distinct characters. Why, I don’t quite know. It may be a consequence of folk traditions attracting unique personalities, or the fact that the loose arrangements found within the music allows more interpretation and experimentation than other musical forms, I’m not entirely sure. But you don’t tend to get ‘normal’ folk singers.
It’s a fairly safe assumption that Gregory and the Hawk’s Meredith Godreau isn’t someone who is particularly normal. It isn’t particularly normal for people to name their projects after their brother and their imaginary pet (this is all I will say on the name or I may lose my temper) and it isn’t normal to sing in such an oddly affecting, helium-lined vocal. What is also pleasingly different is that within her scope and sound you discover a startlingly refreshing musical direction. The problem is that in execution, the content of Leche is frustratingly hit-and-miss. For every moment of brilliance there is an equal and opposite moment of 'why on earth did you think THAT was would work?' For the majority of Leche, Meredith jumps back and forth across that thin dividing line between being brilliant and being twee so many times that you start developing exhaustion just listening to it.
It is a record of contrasting successes and failures. The glorious opener ‘For the Best’, for example, is a perfectly crystallised sliver of simple melancholy. Indeed, the opening three tracks are delectable, with the cyclical, carefree ‘Over and Over’ being especially praiseworthy. Things begin to unravel a little on ‘Soulgazing’ which is overlong and overproduced, taking something delicate and polishing any hint of emotion out of it; ultimately coming across as something you might hear providing anonymous backing on The O.C. Similarly, ‘Geysir Nationale’ never takes wing despite its tumbling strings, you wait for something to happen and before you know it, it’s all over. ‘Freebeight’ is similarly inconsequential. Thankfully, things do improve. ‘Olly Olly Oxen Free’ (atrocious title aside), is gorgeous, simple and bedecked with shimmering baubles of prettiness and swirling, ethereal harmonies. ‘A Century Is All We Need’ is the best track on the record, a translucent and mournful mirror of fragility with Godreau’s double-tracked vocal held up only by sparse fingerpicking, complete with what sounds like sobbing in the background. It is the first time Godreau fully lays her heart on the line and the results are spellbinding.
Unfortunately, she then follows this touch of magic with the Regina Spektor-aspiring, lightweight ‘Leaves’, which may well have been tolerable if it wasn’t so clumsily juxtaposed (the flow of the record is continually confused by a poor tracklisting). ‘Puller Return’ is yet another half-realised idea that amounts to two-and-a-half minutes of nothing in particular; ditto ‘Hard to Define’. At least the closing track ‘Dream Machine’ manages to end the album with grace and elegance.
For all its brief swoops of beauty and quirky intrigue, there is something ultimately unsatisfying about Leche. There are too many unexplored corners and ideas that are never taken to their ultimate fulfilment; burning all too briefly like a cheap matchstick. There is enough about it however, to suggest that there is a truly great record lurking inside of Godreau, if only she could temper some of her ill-conceived ideas and have the courage to push her deeper emotions out a little further out in front.
6David Edwards's Score