Sing Leaf may have the most appealing album name of the year. Earth in 2020 is a volatile and fragile place, perched precariously on the edge of disaster. Not here, Not Earth? That sounds like a welcome respite. So too do the songs contained on Not Earth feel separate from their earthbound creation: in their gorgeousness and experimentation, they sound almost utopian. (he actually billed the initial idea for the album as a “disney, sci-fi, alien landscape vision”).
Sing Leaf is otherwise known as David Como and he’s a modern troubadour in the truest sense. The Toronto-based musician plays every instrument on the record, recording, mixing, and editing it all himself (it was mastered by frequent collaborator Sandro Perri). Como said that the album was informed by the work of writer Richard Brautigan and this can be felt in the exquisite mixing of pastoral and surreal elements. It’s meditative and still; it’s also strange and moving.
Such a balancing act recalls closely the discography of the American musician Sufjan Stevens, who feels like an influence on Not Earth’s sound. Stevens has flitted between experimental electronica (The Age of Adz and his new The Ascension) and earnest folk (Michigan and Illinois) and Como attempts something similar here, albeit on a smaller scale (the record is just eight tracks and 35 minutes long).
So there are tender acoustic numbers like ‘Little Magic’ and the easily accessible folk-pop opener ‘Easy on You’ opposite the trippy and intense electronica of ‘Magnetic’ and’ Eggtooth’; on the ethereal experimentation, I was repeatedly reminded of The KLF’s excellent album Chill Out, with the beautiful and strange outdoor noises.
‘Forever Green’ is the straightest single and an absolute delight. It harkens sweetly back to the pastoral folk-pop of the 60’s, so vividly melodic and sunny. Perhaps Como’s utopian Not Earth will be a ‘Summer Of Love’ that never ends? I wouldn’t be opposed. Como also possesses an intriguing and malleable voice. On the hesitant rock of ‘Sunshine’, he sounds assured and pointed while on ‘Easy on You’, his delivery is lilting and heartwarming. The layered euphoria of ‘Out of the Dream’ brings it to a close, all contemplative zooming synths and harmonious vocals. It’s the sound of a new dawn, the rising sun.
Sing Leaf is a prolific songwriter and persistent bandcamp artist but this feels like his most realised release yet. It’ll be interesting to see where he can go on an expanded record in the future. We could, after all, use some more utopian sonic escapism.