Dead Leaves Rising – Waking Up on the Wrong Side of No One

Dead Leaves Rising
Waking Up on the Wrong Side of No One

Funny how reviewing one 7″ can lead you to discovering so many great bands and artists. That 7″ in question was a release from the New York City-based chamber-pop band Flare, which led to hearing Flare singer LD Beghtol’s side project Moth Wranglers as well as Flare guitarist/vocalist Jon DeRosa’s experimental drone project Aarktica. Those Flare boys keep busy, as Dead Leaves Rising is another release by DeRosa, and it’s likely the most accessible for our average DOA readers, so listen up.
Two words are all I really need here: starkly gorgeous. DeRosa plays folk-influenced indie pop that owes as much to Leonard Cohen as Red House Painters but more aptly resembles the latter. DeRosa plays all the instruments on this release – except for cello on two songs – and what you get is quiet, contemplative folksy music that is stark in its crisp, pure acoustic guitar and soft drumming and gorgeous in DeRosa’s rich, emotive vocals. Each of the 11 songs here are long and involved, but they’re by no means repetitive, showing the difficult talent of turning acoustic folk-inspired songs into something that’s unique and relevant.
The opener, “My Face,” shows off a lovely texture, with DeRosa’s vocals sounding deep and velvety smooth over soft acoustic guitar and cello. Maybe my favorite song, “Fortress” shows off DeRosa’s ability to evoke strong emotions through his beautiful voice, and this one has bits of pop melody beneath the acoustic guitar lines. A bit lighter, “California” uses carefully picked banjo (or what sounds like it) and some keyboard atmosphere to create what feels like an early-morning road song. “I’ve got too much time on my hands,” DeRosa sings softly to pure guitar notes on “Cold, Dark Water.” “I will drive all night, just to see you sleep,” he sings, and I believe him. Piano makes a nice accompaniment on “A Foundation Forms,” and there’s a bit of a folk twang to “The Boy Who Ruined the World.” “Each Day is Like Winter” is a more flowing pop song, still quiet and focused entirely around the acoustic guitar, but lovely and nicely moving, another gorgeous track. A bit more folky, “That Summer” is more light-hearted and leads nicely into the album’s last track, “The Melancholia of Everything Completed,” which is an absolutely lovely instrumental with gorgeous piano and moody guitar.
What astounds me about Jon DeRosa is how mature and tight his music is for a 22-year-old musician. He’s released several albums with the three projects that I know about, including an upcoming new Aarktica album and a previous Dead Leaves Rising full-length. This is certainly my favorite of his solo work, however. His voice is perfect for the pristine guitar and soft melodies, filling these long, moving songs with a deep melancholy and beauty that is very unique.