James Yorkston - The Year of the Leopard

James Yorkston
The Year of the Leopard


First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1

Written by John Metzger


In the past, James Yorkston certainly has made albums that could be considered quiet and understated. With the help of Talk Talkís Paul "Rustin Man" Webb, however, Yorkston transformed his latest outing The Year of the Leopard into a wonderfully intimate affair. Although it initially invokes feelings of extreme discomfort, its charms, over time, gradually are revealed. In the end, the close proximity to which he places his audience to both his emotions and his music becomes a strength, rather than a weakness.

Tucked into The Year of the Leopardís center is a strange, spoken-word piece titled Woozy with Cider. Rather than sounding like a vainglorious exercise, Yorkstonís brooding rumination meshes with the soft electronic effects that creep through the songís background in a fashion that makes palpable the disorienting hangover he was experiencing when he penned the poem. Donít Let Me Down turns even darker. The faint plea in his voice combined with the fragility of the arrangement conveys the sense that although he knows he canít survive another disappointment, he also is aware that one lurks just around the next corner. I Awoke is filled with sorrowful resignation, and heartache drips from every crevice as his words "could you want her/could you need her/more than I" repeat like a lost and lonely echo.

Although the entirety of The Year of the Leopard is dipped in melancholia, it occasionally appears as if it will break free from its grey-hued tones. Summer Song, for example, crosses Pink Floyd with Nick Drake and finds a luminous, pastoral beauty. Similarly, Steady as She Goes is, at its essence, a romantically inclined pop song that has been stripped of its polish. Still, itís within the albumís most claustrophobic moments that Yorkston finds his resonance. While his bleak despondency might not be well suited to everyoneís tastes, The Year of the Leopard is nonetheless a potent and poignant concoction that leaves in its wake a feeling of quiet devastation that is impossible to shake. starstarstar Ĺ

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2007 The Music Box