We all know the sort of music Benjamin Francis Leftwich is known for making. The sort that’ll appear at the back of an emotional scene on Grey’s Anatomy, or that might appear at the end of a Rachel McAdams popcorn drama. The sort of lovelorn, acoustic missives that would make it to an adolescent mixtape to find the quickest and easiest expression of brazen sentiment.
However his new album, After The Rain, comes with a letter. A letter that arguably ends up being more moving than any of the contents of the album itself, but a strong one all the same. In it, he details how the loss of his father devastated him, how – understandably – nothing made sense in the wake of it, and how eventually these songs brought him solace and back to some semblance of closure.
There’s no glee in the fact that we leave the record feeling quite cynical), but it does feel like loss’s slightest manifestation (compared to, say, Sufjan Stevens‘ Carrie & Lowell). Songs like Tilikum and Some Other Arms are largely filled with the same simplistic lines and structures (“Over the moon, under the ground/ I don’t care how we work out/ I wish you no harm if some other arms/ Are keeping you happy”). It’s all very mid-tempo fare, some slight uplift coming on She Will Sing as the beat gallops over the chorus, though it’s not helped by Leftwich’s insistence on breathy delivery, like he’s about to be locked under a trapdoor for the rest of time and needs to take in every drop of air before the song finishes.
By the time Summer comes, the chord progressions become predictable, the melodies essentially still a variation on Leftwich’s first (and still best) hit Box Of Stones. For an album that’s supposed to be about loss we feel very little of it, instead being meted out mild, bite-size missives of digestible but insubstantial angst. Funnily enough, Day By Day is where he gets closer to a Sufjan moment, beautiful as it is in its restraint, and proves that Benjamin Francis Leftwich is capable of so much more. But, if we’re going by the title, two things can happen after the rain: either the clouds part and the sun shines or, as is unfortunately the case here, we get that same dolorous stretch of grey that just refuses to budge.