Radical Face
The Family Tree: The Leaves


4.5
superb

Review

by c0ffee USER (6 Reviews)
April 1st, 2016 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A falling-out

I was sitting in a shabby, cloth seat at a recent concert, listening to the intimate memory-song that Sufjan Stevens was sharing about his mother’s death, thinking how odd it will be to applaud all of this in just a few moments, cheering for something that broadcasts such aching. He seemed tired for sharing so much of himself with the world. Ben Cooper, or Radical Face, has crossed into similar territory. From a glance, The Family Tree is a trilogy storyboarding the fictional Northcotes family, showcasing diversity in sound and consistently good storytelling, dancing between folklore and intimacy. Moving from The Roots, to The Branches, and finally into The Leaves, Ben’s words become less about some made-up history, and more about his own life.

Where Sufjan wore his emotions on his sleeve with Carrie and Lowell, facing his past head-on, Ben blended his life with the guise of a fictional family. He mentioned in an interview that The Leaves wasn’t intended to be so personal, but it became a type of therapy. “There are songs on this record that I will never play live. They’re kind of done. I don’t think I’m ever going to play them again…” he admits. This honesty is shared catharsis for anyone with imperfect relationships. Despite the dark theme, The Leaves starts out blissful enough on “Secrets (Cellar Door),” with a glimmering childhood memory that plays out like a Mark Twain adventure. There’s mysticality, ghosts, a dog and bird are brought back to life. Somewhere in the middle of the track, the pounding drum pulse drops out, and distant words, wet with reverb, ponder “all my life I have known something was off.” This is the first whisper of something different, where the story could be either the character or possibly the self-inflicted thoughts of Ben seeping through.

The Leaves begins to transition from a work of fiction into a veiled autobiography, growing more alluring with its peeled-back intimacy. The trilogy has also become more musically diverse over the progression, revealing more layering of instruments, now more lush than ever. “Rivers of Dust” climaxes with strings, guitar, piano, and sweeping percussion, and distortion and electronic manipulation are introduced with precision, purposely contrasting the organic arrangements of The Roots. The “Road to Nowhere” loops a cello arpeggio overlaid with a spastic rhythm. The woodwinds in “Midnight” are floating and spectral. Ben is using his full arsenal to create atmosphere; this isn’t to say everything is new and abnormal though--there’s a thread of similarity running through the trilogy. Musically, you’ll still notice the acoustic guitar backbone along with the claps and slaps of handmade percussion. Fictional storyline glues the trilogy together in bits and pieces. The “Third Family Portrait” elaborates on one specific bloodline that trickles from The Roots and into The Bastards compilation. All albums share fantastical characters: the waterwalker from The Roots, the man nicknamed the Gilded Hand from The Branches, the boy who sees visions in The Leaves. Ben creates characters with oddities, perhaps alluding to his own feeling of alienation from his family.

For some, family ties are unbreakable, no matter the reasons. Leaves can fall from branches, but at what cost to the leaves? And do branches owe the roots for their existence? As Ben continues the troubled tale of The Northcotes in this final part of the trilogy, he betrays his emotions more and more. The Leaves ends as a self-portrait, painted out as clear as a mirror reflection. No longer is Ben his own caricature. You can’t say it’s a happy ending, but it’s one of closure. We’re seeing a coming to terms with family separation in “Everything Costs.” “And I ain’t gonna hang my head for them, for them / I ain’t gonna let them paint the truth with sin.” “The Ship in Port” begs Ben to leave behind the comfortable. But it’s with “Bad Blood” that The Leaves finds its writer unmasked. The imagery of “The hole in the floor boards / The cot near the front door” seem pulled from Ben’s own memory. The playful magic that ignited the start of the album is all grown up now. “But there’s no magic inside the moon / It’s just a rock you can’t reach.” It took a river of bad blood, receding now, to reveal any truth. This reaches even further back into his past to the 2006 Ghost release where Ben chants, “Let the river in / If blood is thicker than water / Then let the river in.” He continues: “I cut my branch down from my family tree / To start a fire in the living room / Now the house is just ash, this time it’s sink or swim.” And after it all, Ben is still above water.



Recent reviews by this author
Radical Face The Family Tree: The BranchesThe Six Parts Seven Lost Notes From Forgotten Songs
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user ratings (86)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sinternet
April 1st 2016


13690 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review! fantastic album and one of my favourites this year so far

Digging: Galileo Galilei - Portal

LotusFlower
April 1st 2016


12002 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome review! Ive been meaning to check these albums out.

TheWrenKing
April 1st 2016


1377 Comments


Midnight is cool

c0ffee
April 1st 2016


294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks! clover, you can't really go wrong starting with any of these 3. i still have a soft spot for Ghost above all the rest, though. i'm a fan of that Matt Elliott album you're digging.

YourDarkAffected
April 8th 2016


1764 Comments


Not sure where this stands for me yet in his trilogy. Unsurprisingly consistent though.

LamboGD
April 12th 2016


41 Comments


definitely enjoyed this, but don't have the urge to relisten to it for some reason. might be that I have overplayed the roots and need a break from his music.

ComeToDaddy
April 14th 2016


1485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This has come quite late, but absolutely phenomenal review, easy pos. All of your RF revs have been great, I only wish this got more attention.

Toondude10
April 15th 2016


11004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

color me intrigued! might check this out



awesome review, pos

Digging: Iron Maiden - Powerslave

YetAnotherBrick
April 15th 2016


6691 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is probably the best one of the trilogy. Rivers in the Dust and The Road to Nowhere are probably my two favorite songs from all the albums. I love Ghost Towns from the Roots too tho. great review

ABjordanMM
April 15th 2016


1688 Comments


sup coffee, where ya been

Digging: Alt-J - Relaxer

loveisamixtape
April 15th 2016


7312 Comments


rivers in the dust is great

Gyromania
April 16th 2016


22161 Comments


i've heard from a couple reliable sources that this pales in comparison to the last two

AdolfChrist
April 24th 2016


10758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

not really, its pretty consistent with the rest of his discography.

Digging: Mutoid Man - Helium Head

Toondude10
April 26th 2016


11004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this guy is a fucking god, everything I've heard from him so far has been absolutely gorgeous

LotusFlower
April 26th 2016


12002 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for bumping this thread, ive been dying to find this album again.

Toondude10
April 27th 2016


11004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

possible aoty contender right here

AdolfChrist
July 2nd 2016


10758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i think Right Away, Great Captain is a slightly better version of Radical Face. i know Radical Face is much more dressed up and theyre not the best comparison to make, but idk, they have similar voices (though i like Hull's a lot better, he has a lot more range and charisma, and theres more emotion in his voice) and theyre both folk artists.

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
July 9th 2016


5612 Comments


Can anybody whose heard the rest of this trilogy tell me whether or not I should check the first two before listening to this one?

AdolfChrist
July 9th 2016


10758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i havent heard The Junkyard Chandelier, but ive heard all the rest and i think Ghost is easily his best, so i would start there if i were you.

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
July 9th 2016


5612 Comments


tyvm :]



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