The Skygreen Leopards
' fourth album since their inception is also their first for Jagjaguwar and a beautiful (if somewhat disorienting) example of folk-pop from the "new weird America" underground. Donovan Quinn (Verdure) and Glenn Donaldson (the Birdtree, Thuja, and several other projects) have matching voices, instrumentarium, and dreams. Life & Love in Sparrow's Meadow
is all about simple folk guitar playing, unpretentious acoustic arrangements, a measured touch of amateurism, strangely psychedelic lyrics (the song titles give a good idea of their nature), and melodies that, without being marked by songwriting genius, refuse to be easily forgotten. This album packs 11 songs (including a three-part suite) within 34 minutes, and often gives the impression of a continuous piece of work -- mostly because of the folk guitar's predominant role throughout, and a certain similarity between melodies. Instruments include banjo, dulcimer, some organ and harmonica, Jew's harp and small percussion (all performed by Quinn and Donaldson), along with nature-related field recordings. The result is a gentle, surprisingly welcoming form of pop that could even reach wider audiences if it were not for its idiosyncrasies (idiosyncrasies that give it all its originality, mind you), from off-key-drifting vocals to profoundly odd choices in arrangements. From the gorgeous opener "Mother the Sun Makes Me Cry" to the longing closer "A Child Adrift," Life & Love in Sparrow's Meadow
delivers some of the sweetest, strangest pop music since the advent of the Animal Collective
. And its shortness only makes it more precious.