According to Paddy Hanna, lead singer of Grand Pocket Orchestra and co-conspirator in No Monster Club (whose Bobby Aherne and Mark Chester play bass and guitar respectively here, incidentally), ‘Leafy Stiletto’ is “best listened to in a wood-panelled room with massive earphones and a neat scotch”. So, with at least one out of three of those considerations locked down at any given sitting and just over thirty minutes in which to indulge them, we imbibe a brief but bracing collection that warms in the same manner as a sip of whiskey spreading through the body.
There’s a hint of Yo La Tengo to proceedings, with Hanna’s warm, relaxed lo-fi aesthetic giving these dozen tracks a certain ramshackle charm. Opener Rosslare Tapes describes writing on the hoof, armed with some Mikados, a “four-track and a cheap 58” A certain jangly Smiths sensibility inflects the guitar work that weaves through the tracks, although not overtly, at times even becoming lost as Enda Canavan’s drums push to the front. His percussive march propels Heaven Of Heavens’ simple organ motif, but more often than not hangs back to let Hanna’s hushed vocal reference things from everyday earthly minutiae to the celestial Barry White.
The album’s second half particularly displays a slew of effortlessly crafted, deceptively simple pop songs. Sporadic interjections of harmonica – particularly on an upbeat and summery Join The Army – and the unobtrusive backing vocal of Jill Redmond add an extra lilt to the trip, and Hanna himself climbs a falsetto for the acoustic-leaning title track. Mostly though, his is more of an earthy register, and no more so on Mud with its recalling of Stephen Merritt in its weary ruminations on love. The organ is a more forlorn accompaniment here than before, with Hanna singing “Love is the mud that clings to my shoelace”. Brevity is the soul of wit, some lad once said – ‘Leafy Stiletto’ may be fleeting, but its understated vignettes leave a warm, fuzzy glow.