Le Ren's 'Leftovers' Is a Folk Music Feast
Published Oct 13, 2021Strumming thunderbolts out of her guitar, Lauren Spear's debut LP as Le Ren is a folk music marvel, one that charts the human heart and all of its treacherous chambers — spanning love between mother and daughter, love between friends, love lost, and sure, why not, love for the night.
With stripped-down arrangements that elevate Spear's country chops and rangy mezzo, the best of Leftovers easily equals the oeuvre of Canada's very best alt-country voices: Orville Peck, Jennifer Castle, Julie Doiron, and Daniel Romano.
The album begins with the curiously baroque "Take On Me," a sacred-sounding hymn which omits all pretence of groove or hook. It's a brazen gambit only a poet would bother making; Spear lets her songwriting stand naked, confronting listeners like a Greek statue at the harbour of Rhodes: "Take on me / For I have seen the day / Where love is in the gloaming / And we are on its wings."
It's the sort of album-opening line that could cock David Berman to attention and make Leonard Cohen run home to go scribble jealously in his diary.
Because (unlike Berman or Cohen) Spear's voice is conventionally pretty, the songwriter's stunt worthily draws attention to itself — holding you by the ear, putting melody in check — before the album launches off in earnest.
The gamble pays off immediately. The song that follows, "Dyan," is almost impossibly tender, a real miracle of craft, a loving ode to Spear's mother steeped in mythological beauty, worth every gallon of smeared eyeliner it is sure to provoke.
While it's possible that other songs can be this good, they cannot be made any better.
Whereas "Dyan" is written from the perspective of Spear herself, "I Already Love You" is written from the perspective of her mother. It's more subdued, but still poignant, with an almost lullaby quality to it — arranged like a Magnetic Fields song with cello weaving and bobbing through acoustic guitars.
Other song pairings within the album are less precious: the subtle snatches of pedal steel that trace heartache in "Was I Not Enough?" are put to use almost immediately thereafter to gild the cheeky Tinder anthem "Who's Going to Hold Me Next?" and the sensual metaphor fest "Your Cup."
It's a gorgeous collection of songs, showcasing Spear's preternatural songwriting ability. If Leftovers is as aptly named as we hope it is, Le Ren's career will be a feast for the ages. (Secretly Canadian)