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Gregory and the Hawk

Leche

(FatCat; US: 9 Nov 2010; UK: 15 Nov 2010)

Here’s a stripped-down record of melancholy bedroom pop sung by a woman whose voice has been called the “crystalline coo of a clearly gifted singer”. The entire time I suffered through Leche, all I could think was, “Take some vocal lessons!” Have I lost my mind?


But blame it on me. I must admit that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to vocals. Off-key male vocals are completely tolerable to me as long as the music is quality. However, when it comes to female vocals, if they aren’t at least nearly pitch perfect, I absolutely cannot stand to hear it. There are apparently a large group of people who think Meredith Godreau, the, er, mastermind behind Gregory and the Hawk, is the songbird of our generation (to quote a favorite film of mine). I have to be cocky here and say that my ear is tremendous. I’ve been told that since I was a young boy. And I know many female vocalists, personally, who are brilliant. Even if Godreau recorded this in her bedroom, intimate and without the auto-tuning of a professional studio, please forgive me, but her voice is simply atrocious. And that makes Leche an almost complete failure.


Sometimes, personal vocal obsessions aside, Godreau succeeds. The best composition on this album is “A Century Is All We Need”, a very strong piece of work that blankets you with the loss of hope, as if you forgot to take your anti-depressant for a few days. I know that doesn’t sound pleasant, but it’s nearly beautiful and shows promise. Other tracks like “Soulgazing” lighten the mood, with its mid-tempo indie pop recalling a less atmospheric and more jovial Azure Ray.


But then there’s the rest of the album.


A song like “Hard to Define” is your typical lo-fi pop with grating, off-key vocals, and it is just something that has been so done. Maybe I forgot my anti-depressants, but an excursion like that is nothing but annoying. “Puller Return” is frankly godawful in every way, from its uninventive folk with no consideration for melody, and the oddity of lyrics that are almost plagiarized from Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms”. If it’s supposed to be ironic, well, I guess she wins a prize. For me, however, it’s just another reason this promo is going in the trash.


Her success is mindblowing and frustrating. Utilizing the Internet to become a “sensation”, she has now toured with the likes of Mum, Frightened Rabbit, and the Album Leaf—all exceptional bands. But that’s the way it goes. Some people just get lucky while actual talent wallows in obscurity. Yeah, I know, I’m taking this too personally, and I hear my lynch mob approaching. But I had to listen to this, and I had to write this, so this is what you get. Leche is a terrible album in my opinion. Please take those last three words to heart.

Rating:

Stephen Rowland has been founding and contributing to numerous underground film and music publications for the last 12 years. In addition to critiquing images and sounds, he makes no money as a regional historian and preservationist, co-authoring "Postcard History Series: Alameda" and "Images of America: Alameda," available from Arcadia Publishing.


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