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The Leatherbound Books, 'These Were the Days'

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The Leatherbound Books, These Were the Days - COURTESY
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  • The Leatherbound Books, These Were the Days

(Self-released, digital)

These Were the Days was meant to arrive shortly after the Leatherbound Books' 2015 debut EP, Tender My Hopes. Co-front person Jackie Buttolph explained in an email that, though she and bandmates Eric Daniels and Charlie Smyrk originally planned to release the LP in 2016, the year felt too turbulent and the project was shelved.

It's funny to think of 2016 in that way, because each of the past five years has been tumultuous. So maybe we should stop expecting things to cool down. Our mental states might be better for it if we strap in and prepare for a lifetime of chaos. But that doesn't mean we can't reminisce. And good, nostalgic music like that on These Were the Days can offer fleeting respite.

The Leatherbound Books started making this collection of sunny, folk-inflected indie rock as far back as 2013, not knowing how desperately we'd all be in need of a lovely distraction in the fall of 2020. Producer Jer Coons helped "orchestrate more dense and elaborate versions" of the band's live show, Buttolph explained, while Ryan Cohen of Robot Dog Studio mastered the record. Buttolph and Daniels tread harmonic thirds with precision, like champions of the world's most graceful three-legged race. Smyrk, who's no longer with the band but appears on the record, provides thoughtful percussion throughout.

The somewhat gritty title track puts nostalgia at center stage. Alternating swung and straight beats, the composition supports lyrical themes that suggest looking back and looking forward are just different ways of qualifying the now. "Don't tell me 'live in the moment' ... I just end up standing frozen," Buttolph sings, adding at the chorus, "I know we'll look back and say that / These were the days."

Rolling in on a featherlight chorus of "ahs," the twee-poppy "I Doubt It" layers springy guitars and bustling snares under a rollicking melody. It's the group's bedrock sound.

"When You Are Gone," a dark, minor-key torch song bathed in reverb, wallows in sour, stinging chords.

Closing track "I Could Have Been" finds Buttolph exploring the heights of her vocal range as she coos over tenderly plucked guitar and effects-laden, mystical tones. As the record's final thought, one of finding love when least expected, the song acts as an evaporation, or one long exhale.

These Were the Days is a heartily enjoyable album that arrived at the perfect moment — even if it was supposed to be here years ago. It's available at theleatherboundbooks.bandcamp.com.