A Great Big Pile of Leaves is one of those rare bands that are able to weave together multiple genres of music without sounding muddled and coming across as self-indulgent or pretentious. The reason for this may be found within their charm of being able to imbue their records with some of their unfettered live energy. And as a result, their music normally comes across as organic, spilling out of the speakers and filling the room.
With their entry in the Making Moves series, the band comes close to delivering that excellent product. But what keeps the 7-inch record from being exceptional is that the sound quality lacks their live energy. However, the actual material that the band offers on the release is as clever and enjoyable as any the band has released to date.
While Side A, “Pet Mouse,” and Side B, “Writing Utensils,” don’t offer a greatly varied sonic experience, they do, however, complement each other. And while records are traditionally listened to in numeric or alphabetic order, Making Moves is a more satisfying experience when played in reverse order.
The experience of listening to “Writing Utensils,” followed by “Pet Mouse,” is much like running up a hill: despite how energetic you were at the base, climbing up slows you down and once you arrive at the top, you discover that the hill is much more narrow now that you charge down the back side. “Writing Utensils” is the steep ascent, building the momentum towards the flip to Side A. The track opens with light reverb and distortion with Pete Weiland’s vocals disconnected, ethereal as subtle, sharp guitar riffs pepper the fuzz. As the song reaches its climax, muted, thunderous drums and bright cymbal “crashes” build towards an electric whine. The whine is the last push as you reach the top of the hill, and once you start racing down the other side an explosion of color and sound erupts. “Pet Mouse” is a jangly indie-pop tune colored by surf-rock. The track opens with a breezy, bright guitar riff, before Weiland steps up to the mic and the riff drops out, leaving a muted heartbeat bass hook. As Weiland steps away from the mic, an excitable, dance-inducing tempo quickly rushes in to fill his absence.
Sound Quality: The record sounds incredibly clean and polished – almost even more so than the digital version. However, there’s a certain sense of sterility that accompanies that polish. A part of A Great Big Pile of Leaves’ strength as a band is their sound, the emotion that they are able to convey during a live show and how they impart that upon their records. That energy is lacking on Making Moves and its presence is sorely missed. The quality of the record, as well as the feel of it would have benefited from a live recording.
Packaging: This entry in the Making Moves series possesses the same visual appeal as the other entries, except colored with coke bottle green vinyl this time around. The sleeve for the 7-inch is minimally decorated and includes a few short details about the record labels involved. The record itself almost perfectly matches the color of the sleeve. Additionally, the record comes with a digital download of the album and the bonus track, “Ambiversion,” an acoustic version of a song that will be on the band’s next release. While customized album artwork is included with the download, I would have also enjoyed a PDF or Word version of the linear notes.
Summary: While being the most polished record that A Great Big Pile of Leaves has released to date, it also lacks the band’s characteristic live energy. Despite sounding a bit too studio clean, there’s no reason not to pick up Making Moves. The record runs just a little over six minutes, unless you listen to the digital version, which runs just shy of ten. Either way, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be listening to it.
Make Sure To Spin: “Pet Mouse” and “Writing Utensils”
You can still pick up the record over at Interpunk.