November 1, 2007

The Evolution of... Carbon Leaf

In my sophomore year of college, a friend of mine introduced me to a band called Carbon Leaf. To borrow an idea from Garden State, this music changed my life. Carbon Leaf easily became my favorite band, quite literally overnight. I joined in the Carbon Leaf fandom just as their first major release, Indian Summer, and shortly thereafter, went to see them in concert. To date, I've seen these guys five times, and later on this year, I'll go and see them again when they return to Burlington Vermont.

Carbon Leaf was formed in Virginia in 1992 at Randolph-Macon College, where they played for parties and events through to when they released their first album, Meander, in 1995. Meander was characterised by a very jangly sound from the lead guitars that is very characteristic of the 1990s. This is also easily the worst album that they've put out - which is good, because the quality of their music has improved significantly. There are some good songs here, such as Clockwork, One Day and Kettle.

Clockwork - Carbon Leaf

In 1997, the group followed up with their second effort, Shadows in the Banquet Hall, with a very similar sound, although with a bit of an improvement in quality. The vocal work from Barry Privet is about the same, but the music quality has gone up a little. The guitarwork is deeper, more interesting.

Wolftrap & Fireflies - Carbon Leaf

1999's release, Ether Electrified Porch Music represented the beginnings of change in the band's sound. With a new bassist, Jordan Medas, the sound tended more towards folk-rock, and once again represented a bit of a step up for the band musically. By this time, more influences began to crop into their music.

Blue Ridge Laughing - Carbon Leaf

The group released their fourth album, Echo Echo, in 2001, as their last independent release, which gave them their greatest fame to date, also marking a major change in their music towards a more solid rock sound with a noticeable Celtic sound to it. With this release, the band became the first unsigned band to win at the American Music Awards. Echo Echo marked some of the band's best efforts in song-writing, and introduced an intense energy that exemplified the band and marked the start of their best work - this was a huge jump in quality, with every song on the album an extremely good one, but the vocals, guitar, bass and drums have all improved and work much better together here. After 2002, the band went to a full time status.

The Boxer - Carbon Leaf

2003 found the band with their fifth album, a live effort called 5 Alive!, which featured a number of the band's favorites, as well as several new songs, featuring songs from a number of different concerts.

The biggest changes came a year later, in 2004, when the band signed on to Vanguard Records, and released their first major release, Indian Summer, with Life Less Ordinary as the lead single and with What About Everything as the second. Once again, the band's sound changed from Echo Echo to more of a main-stream rock sound, with the same excellent song writing skills and energy from Echo Echo. Indian Summer represented a good sound for the band, with a good mix of fast and slow songs, as well as a maturation of the vocals and how everyone played together.

This Is My Song - Carbon Leaf

In 2006, Carbon Leaf followed Indian Summer with Love Loss Hope Repeat, one of their most thoughtful and lyrical albums thus far, with Learn to Fly as the lead single. This album once again marked a change in sound for the band - much of the intensity still remaining, if not all of the energy. This album is notably slower than Indian Summer or Echo Echo. LLHR once again marked an increase in quality with the band's sound, and they really have started utilizing their sound to the fullest extent.

Love Loss Hope Repeat - Carbon Leaf

The band is currently taking a break from their intense touring schedules, although they are on the road at the moment, and writing new material, such as the new Saturn Disco, which has a very, very different sound that is not likely to stick around, according to people that I've talked to. Recently, the band has released an EP via iTunes, called iCovers 1.4, where the band has released four studio covers - Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, a concert favorite from Led Zeppelin, Dear Prudence (The Beatles), I'm On Fire, another concert favorite from Bruce Springsteen and Screen Door, by Uncle Tupelo.

Hopefully, the band will be releasing another album in the next year or so, because they have it all - the right sound, the energy and song-writing skills that make these guys an almost incomparable band. And they're my favorite.