Leon III
Leon III


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
December 7th, 2020 | 10 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Country takes a psychedelic turn, achieving excellence and setting Leon III up for even better things in the future.

Country music has been on an absolute tear in recent years. From Sturgill Simpson’s psychedelic soul-country to Honey Harper’s cosmic dream country to Orville Peck’s gothic outlaw country-pop, we’ve witnessed a genre renaissance. A name you should add to that growing list of pioneers is Leon III – a side project of the Wrinkle Neck Mules’ singer Andy Stepanian and guitarist Mason Brent, which takes their traditional brand of country music and deliberately bends it in an alternative rock/psychedelic direction. If you haven’t exposed yourself to WNM’s decade-spanning discography, that would be a good place to start in order to appreciate Leon III for what it is: a dynamic and revelatory shift which sees Stepanian and Brent on the threshold of becoming something truly special.

Leon III isn’t quite the opus that will deliver the band accolades, but it carefully and creatively lays the groundwork. ‘Maybe I’m Immune’ is a powerful opener that defines the group’s mission statement: create atmospheric psych-country that is as emotionally sweeping as it is melodic. The initial presence of heavy riffs is a bit misleading compared to the album’s whole, which is far calmer. For example: ‘Faded Mountain’ sinks into a bed of soft piano and swaying guitars, ‘Paper Eye’ features gorgeously layered vocals and immaculate production from Mark Nevers, and ‘The Line’ is underscored by subtle – but beautiful – strings. The opener (and their cover of Velvet Underground’s ‘Jesus’) notwithstanding, the majority of Leon III is subdued, but not “tranquil” – it’s too moody to qualify as “a cool country wave”, or a “delicate pool of emotion.” Aesthetically it sounds lush, but tonally it is concerned and uneasy. Stepanian serves as Leon III’s emotional anchor, his voice gliding across the record’s smooth canvas and soaring to massive heights when the occasion calls for it. The slow builds and gratifying payoffs make most of Leon III perfect for cathartic revelations, as mid-album gem ‘Alberta’ showcases with its swelling, wistful melody. It manages to sound lonesome and universal at the same time, especially when he sings “practically invisible in my disguise” during the final refrain. These sort of introspective lines resonate with a much wider audience – and fortunately, Leon III is peppered with intriguing and similarly enigmatic passages.

Andy and Mason’s combined wealth of experience shines across Leon III, proving that there is no concept they can’t spin into an enjoyable tune. It’s an immaculately produced and remarkably consistent experience, capable of turning any moment into a memory. Their passion is never in doubt, although Leon III caps its own potential by not fully fleshing out the bolder psychedelic rock that’s teased on the opener. An apt blend of that style with the rest of the album’s breathtaking flourishes might yield a future masterpiece. Regardless, Leon III achieves excellence on its own and places the band on the precipice of a breakthrough. Keep an eye and two ears on Leon III – a band primed to make some noise in a genre that is evolving right in front of us.



s
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user ratings (6)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
December 7th 2020


37203 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of my new favorite discoveries. This one is from 2018, but they've got a new album coming up in 2021 and the singles are phenomenal. Fans of Sturgill Simpson will probably dig this.

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks Of God

ChoccyPhilly
December 7th 2020


13317 Comments


Nice one, I'll give it a go

Digging: Solbrud - Vemod

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 7th 2020


37203 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm more excited for their upcoming LP in 2021 than I am anything on here because it sounds like the fulfillment of what I described in the closing paragraph. Very elaborate, 6-9 minute psychedelic country tracks. I sort of wrote this as a primer, but it's still a very good album on its own even if it falls under more "standard" country rock.

ChoccyPhilly
December 7th 2020


13317 Comments


I don't think that's a bad thing. With all the recent experimentation in country, I realise I've never actually enjoyed a typical country album from front to end due to being overwhelmed by bro country.

If this is simple country done well, then I'm game

Beardog
December 8th 2020


3994 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Should check I guess

trickert
December 10th 2020


14 Comments


Listened to a couple tracks--I dig this. The guy's voice reminds me of one of the guys from Barclay James Harvest, circa *Gone to Earth*. Some vague hints of David Roback (ex-Rain Parade, ex-Opal, ex-Mazzy Star, RIP) in the guitar work, too. Will have to pick it up.

Colton
December 10th 2020


9153 Comments


definitely gotta check this

SublimeSound
December 10th 2020


28 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Solid review - I'm really digging this. I've only just started to dip my toes into modern indie country (Sturgill Simpson, Marcus King, etc), and I've found that a these touches of psychedelia have been my back door into a genre I've mostly ignored until recently.



Glad to have read this review, because this definitely would've flown under my radar, otherwise.

Beardog
December 10th 2020


3994 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeh this sounds nice. ALberta has a really nice chorus. Production is stellar, which helps this record too

Fort23
December 10th 2020


3764 Comments


Damn i didnt know country was on fire is any of that shit good



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