Grapefruit revels in its difficulty and intelligence, but sometimes these are the very ideas that the music collapses on.
Kiran Leonard is a particularly interesting character in the indie scene. The 20-year-old is already releasing his second album and has been putting out music since he was 12. Consistently lauded for his extensive knowledge in the world of music, he puts this knowledge to use as he draws from contemporary artists like Joanna Newsom and Death Grips.This is not to say that his newest album Grapefruit sounds like a Newsom/Death Grips collaboration. Leonard is very smart about where to incorporate his influences, seeming to admit the freer form from Newsom songs while looking to Death Grips for inspiration in noisier sections. And make no mistake, at the core of the album, there's no one there but Leonard himself.
It's interesting to see an album so unconcerned with reception. It seems like fame hadn't even crossed Leonard's mind when creating this work as Grapefruit is anything but a commercial album. It's not entirely a bad thing though. Grapefruit rewards a diligent listener. Most songs are inaccessible at first, taking many listens to allow the complex songs to grow. The album doesn't even contain any commercial potential singles to ease listeners into his scattered music. His first single was none other than the 16-minute cut "Pink Fruit" which takes the listener anywhere and everywhere while featuring lyrics about a squid living in a woman's abdomen until it comes out to play.
It's a lot to grapple with, and it's especially a lot of work to expect of potential fans, especially for such a relatively unknown artist, but that doesn't seem to phase Leonard. If anything, his goal was probably to make music he liked and maybe even have a little fun on the way. If he picked up some fans along the way, that's just a bonus.
Grapefruit revels in its difficulty and intelligence, but sometimes these are the very ideas that the music collapses on. Complexity and the required patience to crack it isn't inherently bad as there's amazing music out there that needs true dedication to experience fully. The trick is that the reward should be worth the time spent getting to it, and that's not always the case on Pink Fruit. While the whole album seems to improve with each listen, there are moments that just seem irreparably dull.
Being the longest song on the album, "Pink Fruit" is easy to pick on as he stuffs so many ideas into one song. The piece contains some of the best moments on the record, including some truly exciting guitar riffs, but it's also unnecessarily long, containing many momentum killers and the music builds up to a peak at a snail's pace. When the music finally reaches the crest, it doesn't always seem worth the wait, many times involving screaming to increase the emotional intensity, but the device is used so many times throughout the album that it almost loses all emotional implications and effects. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are many softer moments on the song that just seem like placeholder's until he can build back up to the eclectic chaos he's so good at creating. A similar effect is produced on closer "Fireplace" as the song revolves around an enjoyably recurring vocal riff, but in the entirety of the 10-minute song, nothing seems to even threaten to unseat the melody.
This is not to say that chaos is the only sound Leonard is capable of mastering. Some of the best moments of the album are much more relaxed. "Caiaphas in Fetters" contains a lovely orchestral arrangement, and Leonard does a much better job here of expressing emotion through his vocals. "Don't Make Friends With Good People" is a similarly enjoyable take which starts off breezy and a bit folksy before Leonard's more traditional roots kick in. We even get a touch of his string arrangements along the way. If you can ignore the screams which just seem whiny at this point, the song feels like an amalgamation of the best sounds on Grapefruit while Leonard takes a break with his intellectual lyrics and offers more direct and sincere lines, proclaiming "I know that it seems false / But I would do anything". It might be a bit vague, but it's also where he sounds most meaningful.
These songs are definitely some of the better cuts on the album, but they aren't so far removed from the rest of the Grapefruit. Each song features immense promise born from Leonard's all-encompassing vision. "Caiaphas in Fetters" and "Don't Make Friends With Good People" are perhaps just the most consistent works on the album. All other songs have excellent moments in them, assuring that Grapefruit is indeed a good album. Had they happened more frequently and with shorter intervals though, we'd be looking at a great one.