The Rush Of Sights And Sounds

Dan And Leland

Independent release, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Dan And Leland are mainstream non-conformists.  No, really.

In fact, their act seems almost designed to make an A&R guy want to pull every last teased-and-frosted hair out of his head.  Immensely talented, with a great ear for radio-ready guitar hooks, but also a defiant streak that finds them repeatedly playing against the grain of their audience’s expectations.  They’re like Top 40 hitmakers from a parallel universe.

The one-two punch that opens The Rush Of Sights And Sounds sets the stage perfectly.  First there’s “Mirrors In Pompeii,” an aptly named instrumental featuring D and L’s dueling acoustic guitars in a hypnotic gypsy dance of frenzied riffs, building for about 1:30, whereupon the final chords cross over from acoustic to electric and bleed right into the muscular alt-rock of “You Take Me There.”  As exotic as the former is, the latter comes zooming out of its mouth like the sleek adult alternative radio hit it ought to be, a soaring, melodic, guitar-driven love song.

Dan (Franklin) and Leland (Jackness) trade off on lead vocals throughout this disc, with Dan taking seven and Leland taking five; the songs include six co-writes and three solos apiece from the two principals.  Their voices are very similar and mesh beautifully, bringing to mind that more closely related duo Evan And Jaron.  Like E&J, Dan and Leland also play pretty much everything on this disc but drums, and co-produce.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The production is noteworthy not just for the way many of these tracks are stitched together, but for the little snippets of found sounds and studio trickery they throw in around the fringes.  It’s a bizarre, playful touch, like Pink Floyd producing a Train album, but it works, adding depth and intrigue to the more straight-ahead pop-rock numbers.

Even the cleanest-cut of the radio-ready songs here are lit up by terrific guitar work, though.  For example, “Constellation” has a lush melodic rock feel on the verses but is anchored by rippling, aggressive riffing that remind of John Mayer’s current playing style -- squeaky-clean tone but also bold and, in places, virtuosic.  Playing with structure again, “Phoenix” opens with a minute-long contemplative instrumental section before a quiet verse comes in and gives way to an explosive chorus.  If the production wasn’t so pristine and poppy, it would feel almost Zeppelinesque.

Other notable moments include the full stop the boys execute midway through the driving workout “A Grain Of Sand”; the dog barks decorating the open and close of the shaggy little fireside acoustic jam “Dawg”; the dueling classic rock and slide guitar solos at the fade of “Sunset” (and the little aural intermission that follows); and the bossa nova feel and jazzy vocals of “Seein’ Red” (variety, anyone?).

There are a few straight-up, no-frills-or-tricks radio numbers here (“Mine Again,” “Along For The Ride,” “29 And Nowhere”), but for every one that comes along there’s a quirky little aside like the two-part acoustic instrumental interlude “Tech Support / Firewater.”  The lyrics are for the most part thoughtful and appealing, even if they do get a bit over-the-top earnest on the last couple of tracks.

The Rush Of Sights And Sounds is a well-named and extremely entertaining album, a feast for the senses full of pleasant surprises.  I don’t know if they’ll sell 100 of these or 100,000, but there’s no good reason it can’t be the latter.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2008 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Independent release, and is used for informational purposes only.