Release Date: Jul 8, 2014
Record label: Woodsist
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Folk
Whether the Bay Area remains a bastion of creative music as the cost of living skyrockets isn’t linked to the success of the new Skygreen Leopards album. But the folksy duo’s first release in about five years, Family Crimes, is emblematic in one way of NorCal’s shifting economic landscape. Glenn Donaldson, who founded the Bay’s Jewelled Antler Collective, and Donovan Quinn, one-half of New Bums, started this Skygreen Leopards racket around the turn of millennium.
When Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson of the Skygreen Leopards sing about love, you don’t have to fear for your heart. The California psyche-pop duo’s latest album, Family Crimes, has a triptych of love songs that are gentle enough to only scratch the surface of melancholy. “Love Is a Shadow” shuffles through piles of fallen leaves, with Quinn and Donaldson harmonizing like sun and honey.
“There are absurd situations that are also heartfelt.” So said Skygreen Leopard Donovan Quinn (regarding his lyrics) back in 2009. It’s not a particularly profound observation, but it resonates well with what is tiresome about all this “new sincerity” business. Life is full of chaos, but it’s not necessarily music’s job to organize that confusion for us.
Born in a land somewhere between the muted earth tones of folk and the wanton experimentalism of avant-garde, Skygreen Leopards' long trek from their free-floating beginnings to the buoyant folk-pop of seventh album, Family Crimes, has taken many turns along the way. Part of the Jeweled Antler Collective, early recordings found the band in an acid-damaged mode, a folksier but still plenty weird offshoot of the noise scene that traded in homemade CD-Rs and limited-edition cassettes. 2006's Disciples of California saw the band make a move toward more pastoral country sounds, with hints of their always-experimental background still coming through.
With all the dust and sun-kissed haze in the band’s sound, it seems fitting that the Skygreen Leopards’ new record, Family Crimes, is being released by Woodsist. The duo at the heart of the band, Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson, seem to toe an odd line between being contemporaries of and inspirations for acts like Woods and Matt Kivel. And if the band’s kind of gauze-pop has run pretty consistently over its discography, despite some variations in fidelity, it still sounds like a well that hasn’t run dry.
After spending almost 15 years honing their experimental folk, Glenn Donaldson and Donovan Quinn drop their latest as The Skygreen Leopards on Woodsist, and the pairing of label and sound couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Though they’ve ranged from burned out experimental CD-Rs to close-knit country, Family Crimes trades in country and folk pop tipped just askew by psychedelic ease, like Paul Simon blissfully stoned on a lawn. The highly melodic, sunshiny smear of Woodsist founder Jeremy Earl’s band isn’t far off either.
Back again after five years of other projects, the Skygreen Leopards bring the laid back, jangly, ever-so-slightly electrified folk rock in Family Crimes, expanding the whispery tuneful-ness of their basic formula with drums (Jasmyn Wong), bass (Nick Marcantonio) and a variety of keyboards (producer Jason Quever of the similarly temperate Paper Cuts). Donovan Quinn has been off making drunken folk tunes with Ben Chasny in the interim. Donaldson, for his part, made an excellent C86-ish album as the Art Museums during the hiatus.