The Leisure Society – review

London Aquarium

It is like a bad joke: the new album from the Leisure Society is called Into the Murky Water, so they kick off their UK tour to promote it with ... a gig in an aquarium! It takes only seconds for the band's twin frontmen, singer-songwriter Nick Hemming and pianist Christian Hardy, to conclude that this was a terrible idea. Hardy – garrulous, cheerful, boyish – introduces the band by pointing out how awkward they all feel, while the more diffident and pernickety Hemming keeps apologising for the roughness of the sound.

He needn't: while it is true that the natural home for the Leisure Society's bucolic folk-pop is a sunlit meadow, there is a sombreness to Hemming's lyrics that chimes with this dank corner of the London Aquarium. When he sings of "the monster ever looming" in The Darkest Place I Know, your eye is drawn to the sharks circling menacingly behind him; the faltering hope of A Short Weekend Begins With Longing, containing the plaintive line, "Save me once again from this dreadful sinking feeling", feels even more sorrowful when its writer is surrounded by fish in huge tanks.

According to Hardy, the setlist is slanted in favour of the band's debut album, The Sleeper, because its gossamer songs suit the acoustic setting better than the newer tracks, with their expansive orchestrations and rock leanings. He is wrong: paring back Dust on the Dancefloor allows you to appreciate how complex and delicate the balance between the seven musicians is. When they play Into the Murky Water itself, Helen Whitaker's eerie flute and Michael Siddell's slicing violin flit through the song as elegantly and insouciantly as though they were finned.

Contributor

Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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