Review: Leiahdorus – Ode to the Builders

US synthpop band Leiahdorus is another of those bands who kind of skate through the years, often producing really good stuff, but never really rising atop the pile of “this is awesome”. Not memorable, but very serviceable and when a Leiahdorus track comes up in the shuffle you smile and say, “oh, yeah, these guys. I like this.” But when the song is over you go right back to forgetting they existed.

A similar issue afflicted Edge of Dawn who we recently reviewed, but unlike Edge of Dawn on their new album, Leiahdorus don’t really try much new and what’s new here doesn’t really work for them.

First, the good. The songwriting is very strong. They are writing a “tougher” sounding song these days than we’re used to and it’s a nice change. This is one very, very laid back band and a little “balls in the soup” makes for a more interesting meal. In fact as you go through the album, track by track it’s surprising how many songs sound really good structurally. That’s par for the course with this band. In many respects this could be any other of their albums. Except…

The problem here is, instead of deepening their sound the resort to an unusual amount of guitar, something new for this band, but sadly, not a “good new”. Now we’ve taken some shots from some in the electronic community bcause we use a broad definition for “electronic music”. We consider a myriad of artists electronic who use any number of traditional instruments. We’re no synth snobs, not by a long shot. Those bands that blend trad instrumentation with electronics and do it well are celebrated here. But those that bring in those elements without any bigger picture in mind make our teeth hurt. Sadly that’s the way Ode to the Builders feels on almost every track. They simply end up sounding like a poor-mans indie rock band and it’s not  a look they wear well.

The irony here is a more traditional Leiahdorus sound would have actually worked well with other slight tweaks the band have brought into a number of songs. “They Have Eyes” starts out as a cool Muse-esque wall of sound kind of song that delves into a duller-than-it-should be altern-rock wannabe; “When Hello Means Goodbye” sounds ridiculous and resembles any one of thousands of alt-rock mid tempo numbers that also go nowhere; “Malory” is just dull.

There are some nice exceptions, “Snow in July” is a pleasant, if toothless number that harks back to their earlier material in pleasing fashion, “Blankets” has a nice, relentless plod and the title track enjoys a lovely melody that is sadly rendered ordinary by the instrumentation. There a nugget of something very cool in here but too much of the effort comes off as forced and trite. A band trying to be something they are not and failing in the process.

We know Leiahdorus has the capability of doing some interesting things, we’ve heard them on numerous occasions, but sadly this was one attempt to break out of the box that finds them emerging into yet another, smaller, less interesting box.

Watch: Ode to the Builders album preview

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2 Responses to “Review: Leiahdorus – Ode to the Builders”

  1. Mr. Crosby,

    First, thank you for taking the time to review our latest album. It just came out, and clearly you were on top of it. I am, however, very sorry that this release did not live up to your expectations, though it seems like your expectations of us weren’t very high in the first place! Ha! I know that our work was more electronic in the past, but we are a different band than we were for the previous two albums. Yes, we have a guitarist and drummer who contribute to the composition of the songs, and now consider ourselves to be an indi-rock band, not synthpop. We knew this was a departure, a more “unplugged” sound, but we feel it was a logical evolution from our previous work. Again, thank you for your views, and if you’re ever in New Mexico drop us a line — we’re always up for a cup of coffee and a good chat about music.

    • softsynth Says:

      I’ll say this, our expectations are fluid. We’ve followed the band from the very beginning and think songs like “Indigent”, “Wake” and “Paper Girl” are pretty awesome (listening to the latter right now in fact) and we have every one of your albums (thank you iTunes). The new one is really not our cup of tea but love that you’re out doing what you’re doing. Best of luck with the album and look forward to hearing more in the future.

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