Leon III
Antlers in Velvet


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
March 5th, 2021 | 244 replies


Release Date: 03/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Progressive psychedelic country-rock enters the scene with a bang.

It’s just what everyone’s been clamoring for: a seldom heard-of country band like Wrinkle Neck Mules forming a psychedelic side project, channeling their inner Pink Floyd, and churning out a genre-bending masterpiece. Wait, that’s not your musical wet dream? Well it should be. After all, country isn’t exactly known for its fervent experimentation, so when it actually happens, it deserves to be lauded. Lately, we’ve seen Sturgill Simpson, Orville Peck, and Honey Harper make waves – and when I reviewed Leon III’s eponymous 2018 debut, I earmarked them as an outfit capable of joining such admirable company somewhere down the line with just a little more creativity and gusto. With Antlers in Velvet, the future has arrived. This is a gorgeous, sprawling countrydelic experience which marks yet another new frontier for a genre that’s been steadily stretching its elastic bounds during recent years.

Suffice to say, Antlers in Velvet isn’t your typical country record. A lot of these songs approach ten minutes in length while fielding expansive atmospheres, elaborate guitar work, and pristine sounding keyboards. Andy Stepanian’s vision for Leon III seems to crystallize over the course of these eight spellbinding tracks, his voice transcendent while guitarist Mason Brent’s guitar licks, riffs, and solos echo majestically across various psychedelic soundscapes. This is never more evident than it is during the opener ‘Fly Migrator’, which serves as an overture to embody all of Antlers in Velvet’s greatest strengths in a nine-minute showcase. The song dabbles in ambient keys, employs varying vocal intensities, and erupts into a huge guitar solo in the final minutes before fizzling out into a sea of various instrumental noodling. If you didn’t know what you were listening to, you might think you’d accidentally tuned in to a classic rock station in the middle of an epic Wish You Were Here b-side. Leon III’s influences can admittedly become quite apparent at times, but the quality of the musicianship and the incredibly lush production make any transparent inspirations forgivable.

While Antlers in Velvet certainly has moments of instrumental splendor (the end of ‘Tigris’ in particular is a rollicking good time), its truest strength is rooted in frontman Andy Stepanian’s melodies. His voice here is captivating and ethereal, marking a noticeable transformation from Leon III’s gruffer and more down-to-Earth approach. While his vocal prowess is omnipresent and elevates the entire album, there are specific moments where his contributions are downright sublime. On ‘This Whisper is Ours’ for example, Stepanian sounds as if he’s floating in the gorgeous outer reaches of space while beautiful acoustic chords, distant swirling feedback, and rustically sliding guitar all gradually envelop his voice. On ‘Skeletal Pines’, it’s more of a contemplative warmth, underscored by gently strummed acoustics and existential angst: “Light my way to the church yard where the ground will open wide” / “Can you feel the weight of the flowers? It was me who placed them there.” Sometimes, the rich get even richer – and that’s evidenced by ‘Faint Repeater’, which may very well be the most aesthetically jaw-dropping thing that Leon III has ever done. The melody is accented by a stunning backing vocalist, and the song culminates in a soulful, eloquently delivered guitar solo from Brent. In short, Andy Stepanian and Mason Brent can seemingly do no wrong as they deliver one breathtaking atmosphere after another.

Antlers in Velvet is a colossal moment. Psychedelic rock fans will inevitably get their fix from this, but it’s the fusion of genres with both country and even a little progressive rock that elevates this to the point of historical significance. Country music has been evolving before our very eyes, shedding stereotypes and offering a willingness to break itself in order to be remade. Antlers in Velvet places Leon III right at the forefront of that quest, alongside some very distinguished peers, to give modern country a new look and feel. It’s pioneers like Leon III that help to reshape the figurative property lines between genres. Antlers in Velvet erases those borders, and in the process bestows upon us an immediate classic. The only question I have left is: are you ready for progressive, psychedelic country rock?




Recent reviews by this author
Sheep, Dog and Wolf Two MindsKishi Bashi Emigrant
Domestic Terminal I Could See Midnight SkyCloud Nothings The Shadow I Remember
The Beach Boys The Smile SessionsLeon III Leon III
user ratings (103)
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
SublimeSound (4.5)
Just be here now....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2021


2192 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just gave this a first spin, monster of an album.



Sowing, are you familiar with early My Morning Jacket, especially the album At Dawn? The more hazed out psychedelic elements on that album are the biggest touchstone that I hear on Antlers In Velvet, so definitely worth a listen since you love this.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I love MMJ but admittedly got a late start on them. I've heard everything from Ciruital and on. I'll have to check it. Based on what I've heard from MMJ - especially on that first Waterfall album - I can easily see their sound overlapping certain elements found here. Cheers!

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks Of God

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2021


2192 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ah ok, sounds good. Everyone seems to have different preferences for MMJ, but my personal opinion is that the four albums pre-Circuital are their best, so definitely worth a listen. At Dawn is uneven, but the sound is right up your alley.



Also, forgot to mention this is really nice review, definitely defines what this album is about!

Gyromania
March 5th 2021


32259 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Country music has been evolving before our very eyes, shedding stereotypes and offering a willingness to break itself in order to be remade."



good stuff. listening to this now.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Sunnyvale! Glad to see you're digging it so much. I was anticipating Leon III's follow-up album for some time after hearing their debut, and had always hoped for something exactly like this out of them. They delivered, and then some.

Interested in what you'll think of this too Gyro. We usually either see eye-to-eye or totally opposite, rarely anything in between haha.

Gyromania
March 5th 2021


32259 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol, well, so far this is an eye-to-eye situation. faint repeater and this whisper is ours are gorgeous. love the genre blend here, makes it way more palatable. so far this sounds like the best country i've heard since i first heard halloween back in august

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awesome. That's some damn great company and I totally agree.

deathofasalesman
March 5th 2021


7303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this sounds awesome



wham49
March 5th 2021


5553 Comments


"Progressive psychedelic country-rock"

sounds like the Grateful Dead

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'd call it more psychedelic than progressive, although there's a little of each. Def sounds like the country version of Pink Floyd in my opinion.

normaloctagon
March 5th 2021


5129 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm not sold on this just yet, but i am enjoying it. thx for writing it up

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I went through three pretty distinct phases with this. (1) was blown away by the singles, (2) sorta felt it growing off, (3) heard entire album and everything sounded 1,000% perfect in context. I'm glad you're enjoying it and hopefully you'll get to my phase 3 soon!

normaloctagon
March 5th 2021


5129 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

haha cheers, me too! can tell it's gonna be a record that unveils itself further with time as it's pretty gorgeously thick, but that 3.5 feels good right now 8)



i think my least favorite parts of their sound are the more uptempo rockin ones, but i love the blues and folk and country psychedelia in here. "skeletal pines" was a standout

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I love the balance. When the solo comes in on the opener and when Tigris kicks it up a notch, phew. Incredible. Don't think the more mellow stuff would be quite as good if they didn't have the balls to kick it into high gear. The two modes counterbalance each other perfectly IMO.

Ebola
March 5th 2021


3946 Comments


whattttt I gotta hear this

BallsToTheWall
March 5th 2021


50347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I’m Vibin with the first song I heard.

Digging: Midnight Odyssey - Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb

BallsToTheWall
March 5th 2021


50347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This slaps hard.

WatchItExplode
March 5th 2021


8647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I knew you couldn't resist a review for this one Sowing. This is wonderful guitar album. The vocals sound a bit tired in places, but that opinion could change over time. I'm also not sure this warrants a country tag, but it does provide a nice framework for review. Either way, good stuff that will get repeat listens out of me.

Digging: The Best of the Worst - Better Medicine

BallsToTheWall
March 5th 2021


50347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Makes me want to smoke weed in a field somewhere out west while watching the stars before I die or or go to sleep peacefully.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 5th 2021


37113 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It gets the country designation from me because the band these guys come from - Wrinkle Neck Mules - are straight up country/Americana. The vocalist has a clear country twang and they implement a lot of rustic country rock sounds even if they often take a back seat to the psychedelic aspect. Best instance is probably This Whisper is Ours, which features that classic slide guitar/country sway really prominently. It's there, it's just not forced on us like it is in most country pop.

Glad to see people are taking to this. I think this will be 2021's country earth mover, much in the same way Honey Harper reshaped the face of the genre in 2020.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy