Release Date: Apr 28, 2015
Record label: Full Time Hobby
Genre(s): Folk, Folk-Rock, Folk-Pop
Quietly, without much fuss, and without anyone really noticing, The Leisure Society have gradually evolved into one of the most consistent bands in the country. They may not have quite hit the sort of ‘national treasure’ status that’s readily dubbed onto Elbow, but for those in the know, a new album from Nick Hemming and company is always something to look forward to. The band’s fourth album, The Fine Art Of Hanging On, marks a bit of a departure for them.
On the follow-up to their 2013 LP, Alone Aboard the Ark, British folk-pop group the Leisure Society contemplate survival and perseverance with a loosely themed collection called The Fine Art of Hanging On. During the writing and recording of the album, a close friend of frontman Nick Hemming's was waging a losing battle with cancer, and all through the band's creative process, these recurring ideas of hanging on and grasping kept reappearing in Hemming's lyrics, resulting in what he has referred to as an "accidental concept album. " Hemming is no stranger to melancholic themes, but the overall sunny nature of the Leisure Society's previous output feels especially counterbalanced here by the weight of desperation and difficulty.
In the place where Ennio Morricone-style whipcracks and Jethro Tull flute lines meet, you’ll find the Leisure Society’s fourth album. This indie-folk band, fronted by guitarist Nick Hemming and piano-playing co-vocalist Christian Hardy, have inadvertently made a concept album inspired by the death of one of Hemming’s friends from cancer. While an upbeat piano hook anchors Nothing Like This and I’m a Setting Sun relies on chunky guitar riffs and peppy horns, the lyrics deal primarily with loneliness and mortality: on Outside In, Hemming sings, “In your heart you know you’re worth/More than you were ever told,” over a paradoxically chirpy melody.
That The Leisure Society have some serious songwriting chops is hardly a surprise; after all, the outfit’s founder (alongside multi-instrumentalist Christian Hardy) Nick Hemming was nominated for the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for cuts off not just one but two consecutive albums, and songwriting luminaries of the stature of Ray Davies have declared their support in the past. Hemming hasn't lost his touch. A loosely themed collection of songs about holding on to something - be it a strained relationship, a career in an industry that is way past its peak viability, even life itself - The Fine Art of Hanging On fine-tunes The Leisure Society's trademarks: brilliantly observed, carefully crafted lyrics and rich melodies placed in an assortment of folk-rock and baroque-pop (check out the sumptuous coda to “Wide Eyes at Villains”) settings that manage to combine richly layered detail with disarming directness.