‘STRIP ME BARE’
Reviewer – Ashley Flockhart
More than one million songs are released every year. A lot of them are bad. Most are okay. A fair proportion are good. And then there will be times when you’re sitting at a beach with friends, under a shade at a bar, and if chance has it – one of Joel Leffler’s flowy acoustic pop tales from his new ’Strip Me Bare’ EP will play. It will be excellent.
First single ‘In My Sights’, created with singer-songwriter Melissa Jane, is suffused with deeply calming guitar riffs and the widely spaced beats of a tambourine. The initial lyrics are about a man’s desire to be with a woman, but not being able to communicate it to her. The lines are equal parts relatable and controversial; a testament to Leffler’s boundary-pushing nature. The track’s blatant cheekiness and romanticism create an excitement which might not suit sitting down to talk politics with the fam. That’s more The National’s tone. Topics of lust and seduction are not where this artist’s scope ends. The latter track introduces more serious tones, suitable to dancing with your partner to after you’ve put the kids to bed.
If you have been lucky enough to follow Leffler’s career from the beginning, you will be familiar with his wonderfully naturalistic debut EP, ‘Run With the Wolves’. This body of work, mastered by Grammy Award Winner William Bolden, raked in a lot of Triple-J traction and established him in the Cronulla music scene. You will also then know that his foray into soft-core acoustic rock and RnB is new territory for the musician, showing yet again Leffler’s ability to push his limits and scope. Where his debut EP was bestial and cold, his new EP is boyish and flirtatious.
Title track ‘Strip Me Bare’ doesn’t seem to be inspired by Leffler’s musical heritage; the journey from manhood to pre-deathhood. Instead, it’s largely about affection, the worship of women, and vulnerability in a relationship. The opening line ‘her words strip me bare’ are a motif to the theme of the album, underscored with a celebratory hum. Leffler’s voice is reminiscent of nothing short of a soulful church choir. Other unique touches came with sounds of whistling, firecrackers and finger clicking to tell the story of a girl Leffler’s spirit is smitten with.
This narrative is one we’ve seen time and time again. Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. You know the rest. These themes can sometimes come off as obsessive with the idea of a woman’s physicality. Leffler’s music, however, is low-key enough to not overdramatise an uneasy crush. One which nearly all of us experience at some point in our lives. Given the overwhelming proliferation of songs about crushes and romances, this EP deserves credit for its debonair and cavalier confidence, along with its open honesty.
Songs like Joel’s are ones to just sit and talk to, dance to, go on a date to. To sip, bite, and kiss to. The mellow and generally positive vibes are suited to accompany the everyday pleasures that life presents us with.
Leffler uses excellent electronic backups that run along like wire being attacked by strong winds. Snowy and rusty in a tasteful manner. Having collaborated with ARIA winning producer Peter Holz on this extended play, it’s no wonder it is of high quality. Overall, ‘Strip Me Bare’ is one of the freshest and most soulful EPs this year that is performed nearly entirely with a guitar.
STRIP ME BARE
w/ Tyler Joseph
Brass Monkey – Cronulla