Pen name of Brooklyn singer-songwriter Meredith Godreau, Gregory And The Hawk is a project of ever-increasing momentum: outlasting the sort of flash-in-the-pan fame brought by 2006’s Boats And Birds EP, Godreau is three albums into a career centred on quirky, organic pop elements.
Except that this, the third album, is a hop, skip and a jump from the pop centricities hitherto evident in the Gregory And The Hawk discography; not so far away as to defy expectations, but far enough into experimental folk territory that it is something of a departure from the established Godreau formula.
Leche, indeed, exhibits a number of parallels with M�m – the unconventional Icelandic outfit ably supported by Gregory And The Hawk on tour – and Godreau’s delicate, expressive and almost childlike voice lends itself completely to the sort of skewed melodies and sentiments paraded by both outfits.
Beyond the folk standard of pretty album opener For The Best – its subtle crescendo hinting at what is to follow – Leche shows its true bohemian colours: Landscapes sweeps into earshot on gossamer-thin shamisen melodies, Godreau’s lullaby-like trappings suggesting an unattainable aloofness, before hectic bass and drum flourishes demand undivided attention.
And it is a measure of Leche’s strength that such an exceptional number is by no means alone in its inch-perfect delivery. Over And Over, cutesy repetition in the mould of Juana Molina or even Au Revoir Simone, ascends through an irresistible choral juxtaposition, while Geyshire Nationale again channels an ethereal, Sino-American soundscape to tremendous effect, and Frebeight manages to crawl into the recesses of the brain despite weighing in at less than two minutes.
Godreau, seemingly emboldened by such heights scaled, continues: A Century Is All We Need, while initially uneventful, gradually shares its brooding, melancholic virtues; Leaves crashes into Florence Welch territory – marrying crashing percussion with a melodic hook and unforgettable lyrical turns – with electrifying results; Puller Return softly whispers that “I just died in your arms tonight,” the all-too-familiar refrain finding new meaning over a minimal backing.
There are, of course, moments when Godreau swings and misses. Soulgazing, for instance, trades on the sort of easy-listening normality unfitting for a five-minute lynchpin in the very heart of Leche’s tracklisting. Olly Olly Oxen Free, too, bears a disappointing resemblance to the type of chart-baiting trickery exhibited by Owl City and the like, while the aptly titled Hard To Define’s willful obscurity lends weight to Godreau’s detached persona rather than coax the listener’s ear.
Dream Machine, similarly, brings the album to an end with curious ambiguity; shivering along a maudlin piano progression and laboured, breathy vocals – sounding like a suicidal Cat Power – and one cannot help but wonder what happened to the formula that served so well throughout the album’s relatively vibrant midsection.
Godreau, however, is not the first – and certainly won’t be the last – to draw an album to a close with a dose of indulgent downheartedness, and Leche ought not to suffer for its presence. The LP remains, after all, a leap forward for Gregory And The Hawk, a pseudonym adopted to confound singer-songwriter pigeonholing; the music alone is sufficient on this showing. Well, for the most part, anyway.