Release Date: Mar 25, 2016
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Kiran Leonard, in the best possible way of course, just isn’t wired up right. At just 20 years old, this Oldham native has been writing songs since the age of 12, played all the instruments on his début album Bowler Hat Soup, and has already planned his third record, long before its release. First though comes Grapefruit, one of the most eclectic, baffling and downright brilliant albums you’ll hear all year.
I imagine that for artists of a certain vintage to be compared favourably to The Beatles, Jeff Buckley and Lift to Experience would be at least pleasing. Even for the most 'comparisons are lazy, my music doesn't sound like anybody else' kind of musician, to find themselves in this position could only be positive. It should certainly pique the interest of a wide swathe of potential listeners.
You need Adobe Flash Player to play sounds. Install Flash and reload the page..
Having released a fascinating if rambling set of experimental pop called Bowler Hat Soup for his debut at age 18, Kiran Leonard follows up a little over two years later with even more challenging, impulsive-sounding indie rock on Grapefruit. While the debut claimed over 20 instruments in rotation, all played by its creator, here Leonard shares the workload with several guests, including a traditional string quartet, though there's little conventional about the performances or the songs. To drive that point home, the musician introduced the album with the 16-minute lead single "Pink Fruit," a meandering but instinctively dramatic epic that moves through segments of garage rock, woodwind-embellished chamber pop, and multiple flavors of classic art rock, at times dotted with spoken word samples.
Kiran Leonard is just 20 years old, but if you were looking to paint him as a wide-eyed ingénue, you've already missed the boat: Such is his experience and tireless work ethic he's already coming to resemble a veteran. A rangy young man from Oldham, Greater Manchester, Leonard picked up the mandolin aged five, and wrote his breakout 2013 song "Dear Lincoln" – a manic piece of psychedelic pop, like Van Dyke Parks reincarnated in the body of a hyperactive English schoolboy – when he was 14 years old. Currently ensconced at Oxford University's Wadham College, where he's studying Spanish and Portuguese, Leonard is an intellectual sponge drinking up an ocean of knowledge.
Kiran Leonard is a particularly interesting character in the indie scene. The 20-year-old is already releasing his second album and has been putting out music since he was 12. Consistently lauded for his extensive knowledge in the world of music, he puts this knowledge to use as he draws from contemporary artists like Joanna Newsom and Death Grips.This is not to say that his newest album Grapefruit sounds like a Newsom/Death Grips collaboration.
The underground is full of prolific misfits who won’t settle into one genre. Few of them are as prodigious as Kiran Leonard, just 20 and on his second studio album, having started recording in his early teens. Freak-folk currents still run through tracks such as Fireplace, but Grapefruit is more wilful and abrasive than his last effort, 2013’s Bowler Hat Soup.
It might be reductive to describe something as a bloody racket, but Kiran Leonard’s second record is unquestionably that – albeit with plenty to cling to in times of almost intolerable discord. The 20-year-old makes heavy, all-elbows indie-folk that manages to feel overwrought and ramshackle at once. The brilliant, difficult, 16-minute Pink Fruit features a combination of Leonard’s aggressively mournful vocals, a story about a girl with a squid in her stomach and long periods of general cacophony, all held together with a small, bright riff that keeps returning throughout the song like an old friend.
Kiran Leonard's clattering songscapes describe a jumbled, dreamy, scatterbrained lack of concentration. But this unfocused direction, for all its confusion, feels exciting in the same way that mis-reading a map can walk you into the unknown. It's the debut record from the Mancunian and Leonard sounds eager to show off the full scope of his inspirations.Lead 'single' Pink Fruit is a whopping 16 minutes long and is more a patchwork of flickering images and half-thunk thoughts than any typically cohesive radio-ready album teaser – but the twists and turns it takes are well worth the view.
Manchester’s Kiran Leonard (not to be confused with London’s Kieran Leonard) takes a widescreen approach to his songwriting. This would appear to extend to techniques in the editing suite too – Pink Fruit, the first single from this second album, is 16 minutes long and includes passages of found sound, Dictaphone chatter and colossal riffage. Now, this approach is not for everyone.
Kiran Leonard, just twenty years of age and on his second album and with a follow up already mentally mapped out, is a multi-instrumentalist who, four years on from his impressive debut Bowler Hat Soup, has increased his already expansive approach to making music. Grapefruit is full of weird and wonderful things. The son of a folk singer and younger brother of a post rock/jazz fan, Leonard is proving to be a musical collector.
"Ambitious" is going to be a word thrust into many reviews of Kiran Leonard's second stab at the long-playing form, Grapefruit. His insistent, hyper-kinetic approach to music composition, theory and delivery is a whirling dervish of audacious alacrity, coupled with a ridiculous amount of talent. Such precociousness can be confrontational, celebratory, provocative or perverse – and here he manages all of these emotions and more.