Girls with guitars/pianos are really starting to get on my nerves. Turn on a radio and you’ll most likely hear Colbie Caillat’s hit single, “Bubbly,” Feist’s “1, 2, 3, 4,” or even A Fine Frenzy’s “Almost Lover,” all of which are beginning to gnaw tiny holes in my brain. Gone are the refined days of Tori Amos and Melissa Etheridge. Welcome to the world of sickeningly sweet pop.
But, wait, there’s hope! And it’s in the form of Aya Inoue, best known for her role in Mike Gordon’s Ramble Dove. Perhaps hoping to slay that saccharine sensibility, the Burlington songstress has banded with a trio of musicians collectively called The Leaves. The quartet has recently released Timid Line, a four-song EP that hints at greater things to come.
The mood of tunes on this CD ranges from the title track’s light country fare to the dark tonality of “Yours Truly, Charlie.” The latter, an ambitious 6-minute epic, is the best song on the disc. It features Patty Griffin-style vulnerability and a slow-build climax that pays off with a strident, rhythm-led vocal.
Inoue’s voice is certainly serviceable on Timid Line, though she sometimes gets a little too whiny for the band’s song structures. Lyrically, she manages some decent writing, minus the occasional lackluster cliché: “I’m sorry that I trusted you / After all the things I’ve been through” from the EP’s first tune, “Back,” immediately springs to mind.
The third track, “Instead,” is a welcome diversion from the angst. Its hook, which resembles Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack,” eventually gives way to a nasty little solo from lead guitarist Matt Harpster. His bluesy work is, hands down, the highlight of this album, as he proves his chops with one melodically pleasing solo after another.
Guitar heroics aside, Timid Line is definitely lo-fi, lacking the glossy sheen of a more mainstream EP. At points, the sound quality borders on static. But the disc is still worth a spin, if only to shake that damn “Bubbly” song out of your head.
Check out The Leaves’ CD release party this Friday at the Rose Street Artists’ Co-op in Burlington.