The disarmingly masterful album grabs hold with skilled chorales of layered harmony vocals, raw acoustic guitars, collages of cut up found audio, punchy percussion, unexpected song structures, and enigmatically poetic lyrics: Stories, fragments, images of his childhood growing up under the grim shadow of the Great Recession, a latchkey kid often left to his own devices in rural Waupun, Wisconsin, the home of the state’s maximum security prison. Many of the songs are like dreams, Leb says, because he did a lot of dreaming to occupy his time.
Influences such as Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine deserve a brief nod of respect, but in the end Leb is his own man, synthesizing his influences with a graphic artist’s eye for detail and precise constructions, building a 21st century folk-rock sound stage that is fresh and unique and, yes, new.
What’s most impressive is that the collection of 13 songs sounds like the work of a veteran artist already in complete command of his craft and vision, despite Leb’s mere 23-years and being a completely self-taught musician and engineer-producer.
In short, Leb is a tour-de-force recording debut that bridges folk-rock past and present, lighting up the night sky like a newly discovered star that is both ancient and brand new, a rare thing of beauty that needs to to be savored, and deserves to be celebrated.