REVIEW: A Great Big Pile Of Leaves – ‘You’re Always On My Mind’

YAOMM

Artist: A Great Big Pile Of Leaves
Album: You’re Always On My Mind
Genre: Indie Rock, Math Rock
RIYL: Minus The Bear, Avi Buffalo, Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s

Topshelf Records are having a huge year. With stellar releases from bands like Have Mercy, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and Diamond Youth, the label’s reputation has grown tremendously and with each of these efforts being added to their catalogue, they’re quickly becoming the label to beat this year.

Enter Brooklyn’s A Great Big Pile Of Leaves. Over the course of several EPs and 2010’s Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?, AGBPOL have awed listeners with their unique brand of indie rock consisting of impressive songwriting and antic lyrical content. The foursome are currently poised to release their newest full-length effort, You’re Always On My Mind, and as of right now, AGBPOL have crafted my record to beat for 2013, further solidifying Topshelf Records as my pick for label of the year.

You’re Always On My Mind couldn’t have come at a better time. As I’ve been in a very reflective, nostalgic, and critical state as of late, this album was everything I needed to hear. On the surface, this record may appear to be simple, straight-laced indie rock with obscure and or esoteric lyrics (“Pet Mouse”) reminiscent of works from bands like Minus The Bear or Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s. However, after multiple listens, I broke that surface and found myself submerged in a form of time machine that took me back to my childhood much like Remy’s ratatouille does for Anton Ego. Swimming with friends, school dances, young love, sleepovers, and exploring – tracks like the opener, “Snack Attack,” and midpoint, “Back To School,” portray these themes with ease and dig up fond, and even some not so fond, memories. I can’t help but think about Kevin Arnold and his coming-of-age journey through The Wonder Years. The entirety of You’re Always On My Mind oozes a nostalgic element in its material that I rarely find in music these days.

Every aspect of this album shows progress and evolution from the band’s previous efforts. Having smartly recruited Ed Ackerson after a previously DIY history, the production and mixing is top-notch and accentuates their original style perfectly. Beyond the quality of sound, though, the group’s songwriting skills, sonic instrumentation, and even Pete Weiland’s effortless (in the best way!) vocals have all improved drastically. The sometimes distorted, sometimes clean math rock riffs from Matthew Fazzi, the intricate and dynamic arrangements, and the overall structure of the album are still very much like their previous works but they’re improved upon and more fully focused with an evident confidence. AGBPOL are completely in control of their craft and it shows in every offering on You’re Always On My Mind.

Like Said The Whale’s “Camilo (The Magician)” for example, there’s an almost 90s rock vibe to much of the album, primarily in tracks like “Flying Fish,” “Slumber Party,” and “Fun In The Sun” but the band also shows a more intimate and even beautiful side in “Egocentrism” with shining, mellow guitar work accompanied by an almost dramatic vocal delivery. The song builds bit by bit to a sing-along you can excitedly belt with friends on the way to your next (pizza) party. There’s a lot of versatility throughout YAOMM and it helps make for an always intriguing listening experience. Speaking of pizza, any album that has a track entitled “Pizzanomics” is already of great interest to me. It’s another delicious slice of this amazing pie and as the album’s closer, it wraps things up nicely with its smooth, relaxed instrumentation and carefree lyrics. “You may be on top, until the market goes to shit / while I’m still eating pizza loving every minute / I just love pizza so much / I’m choosing it instead of spending every moment trying to get ahead.”

As opposed to just something that we as listeners would want to hear, AGBPOL have given us an album that we needed to. In the current, seemingly endless, state of turmoil and fear that most of the world appears to be in, this album is an escape. Forming an ideal synthesis with the aforementioned lyrical style and arresting musical prowess, it’s fun and untroubled, and it takes us to places we long to return. You don’t have to over-think it if you don’t want to and that’s something that’s become increasingly rare these days. This isn’t to say that there isn’t meaning in this record, because it means a lot to me, but like with most things, it all comes down to preference and interpretation. While I can’t necessarily relate to Weiland’s “mix of personal experiences with psychological theories” that he has infused into the themes of this album, my own experiences and wonders have found 10 incredible tracks here to comfortably connect with.

You’re Always On My Mind is everything that the band’s moniker itself would suggest. As a child, excitedly jumping into and being engulfed by a massive mound of crunchy leaves was a brief moment of pure euphoria. I’ve thought, “If only there were a pile large enough for us all to jump into and leave the world behind…” As far as albums go this year, You’re Always On My Mind is that perfect pile of leaves.

SCORE: 10/10 — FLAWLESS VICTORY!
Review written by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter

 

You’re Always On My Mind is out July 2. You can pre-order it through Topshelf Records.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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