Release Date: Aug 16, 2011
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
Even if you don't know Grant Olsen by name, there's a good chance you've heard his voice. In 2007, Olsen and fellow Seattle resident Sonya Wescott released In Camera as Arthur & Yu. The pair took cues from a narrow set of influences-- the Velvet Underground's drowsy pop-leaning moments, the sunglasses-cool work of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra-- but the results felt full and well executed.
Even if Grant Olsen’s name isn’t familiar to you, his music probably is: as half of the duo Arthur & Yu, Olsen has toured with impressive outfits like Great Lake Swimmers, Broken Social Scene, and Iron & Wine. His Pecknoldian voice probably rings a bell, too. It would be too easy to call Olsen’s new project, Gold Leaves, a first cousin of Fleet Foxes in the now-crowded lineage of woodsy alt-folk, but there it is.
Imagine, if you will, The Associates’ immortal “Party Fears Two” translated into the guitar-folk idiom. It may be a personal auditory idiosyncrasy, but this was the association (pun intended) that came to me on hearing “The Ornament,” the eponymous single from Gold Leaves’ new album. There is a certain quality of lachrymose hysteria, of just-sublimated sexuality, of the irresistible crest and crashing of a wave, which inheres in both pieces.
As half of the duo Arthur & Yu, Grant Olsen crafted a gauzy neo-psychedelic sound with lovely vocal harmonies and plenty of warmth. The Ornament, his first album under the name Gold Leaves, finds Olsen in solo project mode, playing and singing a much more intimate and orchestrated brand of beardy, reverb folk. With the help of fellow sonic traveler Jason Quever of Papercuts, Olsen layers every inch of the record with guitars, keyboards, vocals, and percussion in a very pleasing way that mixes seemingly contradictory styles like doo wop, orchestral pop, and singer/songwriter-ish country into a coherent sound.