Album Review: Stress by Charlie Leach

By Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)

Charlie Leach’s beginnings in music were as mundane as many other; gaining a love for the profession from his studies at school, he progressively became more enamoured with the many more eclectic genres that were available to him. His sonic pallet has aged in a manner that has been in tandem with his own personal development: starting in a happier, indie rock background, Leach has swerved and bobbed through many different styles and music communities, this current iteration has found Leach delving into much more dark, extreme music, lurking on the fringes of the greater music world. Though, like many of his contemporaries, he is still a novice, in both his profession and life. His latest reviews for Yung Lean’s Stranger and Sleigh Bell’s Kid Kruschev show Leach at his most vulnerable and echo a problem that is rife in the review industry.

For someone such as Leach to pick these two albums was a bold move. While it could be argued that he has experience in the genres of rap and pop music, it would be quite churlish to suggest he has a firm mastery of the many sub-genres and trends in these communities today. In respect to Yung Lean, Leach seems to show little background knowledge on the rapper. He might be able to effectively reflect his knowledge on some of Lean’s earlier singles (such as Kyoto and Yoshi City), and may take an interest in the vaporwave aesthetic that the rapper so heavily pulled from when first coming into the limelight, but Leach seems to have no real basis to pull from for a well-founded review into his latest project. Leach seems to intimate that he finds Stranger a “cloud-filled listen, with no real substance to pull at”, though in respects to the writer, he himself only writes from a surface level, and only a love for the single Hoover, a song that marks a clear, fleeting departure from the rapper’s main catalogue.

In spite of his lacking knowledge of all things Lean, Leach does have a fuller grasp of the work of Sleigh Bells. Though rumored to have not listened to all of their albums, Leach has in the past showed a great appreciation for Sleigh Bells’ first album, Treats. This album was the first foray for Leach into more experimental forms of music. The noisier overtones in the instruments used in Sleigh Bells’ music helped provide a standing ground for Leach to jump into the genre of noise (and it’s sub-genres). However, it is worth noting that Leach has shown no more real interest in Sleigh Bells’ work, and this can be seen in his review for their latest release, Kid Kruschev.

A succinct album, Kid Kruschev has been fairly well received by many critics. Some have written quite positively about the thematic cohesion throughout the album, praising the prominent vocals and ballad-like nature of many of the songs (but contrasted this glowing praise with  luke-warm review scores). Leach, however, found the album a laborious listen. Citing in his opinion the monotonous nature of many of the instrumentals in this album (the “over-compressed” kick drums being something that greatly distressed the reviewer), Leach seemingly found the album quite boring and laborious, equating to a “time-consuming, un-fulfilling listen, that though not necessarily bad full of bad musicianship, is littered with unsatisfying production and lackluster lyrics”.

This scathing criticism is nothing without its context. Privately, Leach has suffered from many hindrances that, quite reasonably, affect his professional responsibilities. For many years, the young writer has dealt with depression, causing many working days to be akin to traversing through a murky, foggy sludge. While Leach himself may not want to lean on this illness and allow it (in his mind) to be an excuse, many would argue that this affliction is grounds for many disadvantages he may face in his working career. Many similar to him have suffered and will suffer through similar circumstances, and like him will trudge through in relative silence.

To be expected, unknown factors such as these will affect a review by any budding writer, and with Leach, this could be seen to be the case. His mainly emotionless response to the music on offer by these two well-regarded contemporary artists could be indicative of the emotional state Leach found himself in throughout the week.

This emotional state could be conducive of the week Leach has had. Having just started a new job in retail this week, rumours have abounded about his lack of control on the balance he has between his different professional interests. Consequently, the reviews produced have suffered as a result. Leach, as a part of music journalism (albeit on a voluntary basis), has fallen victim to the looming specter of deadlines and the pressure of balancing work and play. Print journalism is an industry rife with deadlines and pressure from above, which in many cases leads to pieces that might not be reflective of the writer’s opinion or true ability. An enjoyment of an album for someone such as Leach is tempered by how much time and energy that particular writer has to put into listening to an album. The pressure of having his work placed for all to see in a public space ins frightening in itself; added to that the pressure of getting a good piece of work out on time is deadly to someone’s mental health, as is evident in the case of Leach.

And so, Leach concludes that these two reviews would not be fit for purpose. For many, it would be of the up-most importance for their work to be completed on time, but in this instance, Leach has decided that it more important to tackle the issue head-on, instead of burying it underground. Though, it may have been more therapeutic for Leach to actually write an opinion piece, instead of opting for a headache-inducing meta-review on himself. A light 4 to a strong 7.

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