Randolph’s Leap – The Curse of the Haunted Headphones
It really wrong-footed me as well, in terms of the expectations I didn’t realise I had for the band and their next release. The last time I saw these guys play was actually at an Ides of Toad gig at the Electric Circus last August, and they had a couple of strings players, a three-piece brass section and a big, rounded glossy pop sound.
I was also kind of surprised to see this release on Peenko Records, given that Mr. Peenko already has another independent label to be getting on with, namely Olive Grove. And I was incredibly surprised to hear such a lo-fi, informal-sounding album.
Apparently this is more of a home-recording project by Adam, the band’s frontman, with relatively infrequent appearances by the rest of the band. A couple of the songs are even the barest of bare-bones session recordings made for our local university radio station Fresh Air.
There are bigger, glossier releases on the way, but having heard this I don’t know if this style doesn’t suit their music better. It’s entirely possible I’ll change my mind when I hear the full band stuff, but for now I find this kind of unpolished approach, although it’ll presumably never make them famous, feels entirely consonant with the peculiar charm of the songs.
Adam Ross may be just about my favourite lyricist in Scotland in the moment, with a knack for staying exactly the right side of the line which divides witty from novelty. He also has a habit of slipping suddenly from the cheekily amusing (going as far as to occasionally prompt the ‘he didn’t just sing that did he?’ reaction) to the touchingly poignant. It doesn’t happen all that often, but the change of gear is such that the impact of those moments of pathos is greatly enhanced.
All in all, though, the impression left is of a person, not a band. I have no idea how much Ross sings in persona but the picture painted is of someone with a sharp, mischievous sense of humour and yet also prone to moments of vulnerability. The album feels, as such, unguarded and honest, but instead of taking that as an excuse to wallow, as most do in such situations, this is playful and amusing without ever feeling frivolous or silly. I don’t know what their more polished releases are going to be like, but they’ll struggle to match this for emotional accessibility, for hummability rising above its lo-fi aesthetic, and just for sheer likability.