On the cover of her haunting 2003 debut e.p. “In This Life, On This Road,” the Los Angeles singer-songwriter Leerone projected to the future, imagining herself as an elderly woman with fearless, fiery eyes and skin like crinkled parchment. Conceived and shot by Leerone herself, the photo spoke volumes. In a youth-obsessed age where the merchants of glamour have all but hijacked art, Leerone was signaling her determination to grow up — a notion so contrary to current wisdom, it seems almost subversive. A similar rebelliousness animated the seven tracks featured on the singer’s CD. Combining an introspection reminiscent of Carole King with hard-hitting production values worthy of Led Zeppelin, “In This Life, On This Road” heralded the arrival of a dynamic, truth-seeking new talent.
Now, Leerone returns with a sophomore outing that cements her reputation as one of indie-pop’s most distinctive artists. Featuring six original compositions of surpassing candor and vulnerability, Hail to the Queen once again finds Leerone operating well beyond the conceits of modern pop convention. In her continuing quest to dissolve the barriers that separate artist and listener, the singer has traded in the sure-fisted rock ‘n’ roll sound of her debut in favor of a nuanced, voice-and-piano approach that highlights the engaging pensiveness of her lyrics. Hail to the Queen is a recording so forthright and unpretentious, it’s like sneaking a peek into a trusted friend’s personal journal.
Laced with hooks and beautiful crescendos, Leerone’s music pulls you in and immediately you’re transported to an unknown time and place that feels eerily familiar. I’ve sat listening to this songstress’ two EP’s on my headphones contemplating how to put to words what emotions these thirteen songs evoked. Without heavy-handedness, I wanted to give a just and brutally honest assessment. Upon first listen her music surpassed any expectation I may have had about what I was about to hear.
On Leerone’s Debut EP, In this Life, On this Road, she envisioned herself as an elderly woman who is still attempting to grapple to some sense of home and a belonging. Years of love and loss, a life on the road, witnessing some five or six decades pass with her vision of America constantly shrinking and expanding, redefining itself and spiraling past fill this record. A theme I have yet to see put to record, but executed beautifully and sparks visions of a post-war, Beat vision of America. The production lays the foundation and Leerone’s songwriting delivers. It’s intimate, and befitting, anything more would have deviated too far from her message and the emotion and power her songs convey.
Now, she has returned with a second EP, Hail to the Queen, minus the drum kit and bass found on her first outing. Leerone wanted to record her second record with her live performance in mind, an ambiance that’s inescapable throughout her catalogue. What’s so surprising is the maturity that is emanated from her recordings. Much like her first EP, Hail to the Queen, gives the listener a sense that they are tucked in a dank, smoky bar, in the wet San Francisco night. The Carole King comparisons are spot on- liberating, autobiographical, and intimate. What Leerone also sprinkles her songs with is a bit of Billie Holiday’s brutality and attitude, an approach that’s all but nonexistent in today’s music.
Leerone spoke of her early migration from Israel to the United States and a feeling of a dual existence that stemmed from having two homes. That’s perhaps what I love most about her music- the feeling of home that’s coupled with listening to her songs. Maybe it’s a fond reminiscence, its mysterious elusiveness, the alienation that’s accompanied by age, or perhaps the struggle with all three; at any rate Leerone sings songs about home and whatever that means to you. If her first two recordings are any indication, all she needs to do is stick to her guns and Leerone will be well on her way.
Review by Emma Loggins