It's been a long 5 years since the release of Benjamin Francis Leftwich's debut album Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm.
That album is an absolute jewel of a record. Lyrical and dripping with melody - it really should already be in your collection.
I've discussed Ben on a previous post
In October 2012, Ben released the Ep In The Open, which signposted where he was to go on his next album.
But in 2013 Ben lost his father to cancer. This led Ben to drop off the grid for almost two years on a spiritual journey of self realisation and coming to terms with the death of his father. And now in 2016, Ben presents his new album After The Rain. And by God, how I've missed his music.
So, has After The Rain been worth the wait. Oh Yes. It's simply stunning.
After a such a dramatic event in his young life, you'd expect that Ben would return being somewhat reflective and introspective. But After The Rain is so much more than that. It has certainly been an exercise in catharsis for Ben and there's as much light as shade in the record.
The first tracked that Ben released from After The Rain is also the lead off track from the album. The lovely Tilikum. It showcases Ben's fragile and almost whispered vocals and gently picked guitar. With soft brushed drums and sparing electronica - it sets the scene for the rest of the album.
'I wish you no harm if some other arms are keeping you happy'
Track 2 is the beguiling song Some Other Arms - opening with drums, bathed in electronica and featuring once again Ben's picked guitar and lovely harmonies, it's another gorgeous track. It has a beautiful hymnal quality - which is a theme throughout the album.
Some Other Arms
She Will Sing lifts the mood with an uptempo drumbeat and vibrant electronica underneath Ben's layered vocals.
As I stated earlier, Ben has produced an album of both light and darker shades - quite often they lie within the same song, such as in the next track Kicking Roses.
Ben has created some gorgeous melodies for this album and none better than the lilting and floating Summer - with it's softly sweeping background including some muted drumming and piano and electronic swathes it's Ben at his most seductive and poetic musically.
'I parted from the feeling I was never going to change and I started to believe in the hope of better days'
Just Breathe is almost a continuation of Summer with an even richer atmospheric accompaniment. It's amazing how Ben has created an album that sound so sparse and at the time seem so lush.
The songs are short and sweet on this new album - fitting in 13 tracks into it's 47 minute playing time. The songs are around just enough time for them to make friends with you then they're gone. Like mist in the morning.
Cocaine Bridge sees Ben at his most pleading with some lovely electric guitar moments. It shimmers under an insistent swathe of brushed cymbals which come in like waves hitting the seashore. It's a lovely sound indeed.
The next song is also the longest on the album - at just over 5 minutes, Groves starts with some strummed acoustic guitar and piano before being joined by what sounds like a cello. It's dramatic, it's cinematic but oddly insular. It's reminiscent of something Peter Gabriel might produce.
There are quite a few songs on the album that deal with relationships - Day By Day is one of these. With just Ben's guitar and a sprinkling of electronica, it's one of the simplest tracks on the album.
Immortal starts with some foot stomping drums before settling down with a piano motif and then builds into another minor dramatic track.
There is a mood of solace that runs throughout the album but that's not to say it is mournful or demanding your sympathy. Ben has very much gone for a mood on this album and the songs have either been selected or sculptured to fit into this mood.
It's obviously and album that has been instigated with sorrow in mind but it's how Ben has had to deal with his grief - it's often said that artists produce their best work out of sorrow or strife and Ben is no exception. After The Rain is very much in the same vein as another of my Albums of 2016 this year - the magnificently understated Happy Blue by Jones.
The next track on the album is one of the most immediate songs on the album - Mayflies is another of the more uplifting songs on the album with its electronically treated vocals and another melody to die for it's an absolutely killer track. Contemporary and
'In another life the mayflies will take over the sky'
The soft acoustic strum of Ben's guitar is the basis of the penultimate track of After The Rain. Frozen Moor is the gentle Coda to the album and is the track on the album that would easiest fit on to Ben's debut. There's something about just a musician and their guitar. Stripped of the polish and instrumentation it really is a lovely track.
The final track on the album is the extremely short Just As I Was Waking Up. Again just Ben and his guitar, it drifts in like a shaft of sunlight into a darkened room. Then disappears.
After The Rain is a record that seduces you. Lulls you into a false sense of insecurity. Whispers in your ears. Tells you secrets. And promises that everything will be alright in the end.
Let's just hope we don't have to wait another four years for that Difficult Third Album.
A mention has to go to Jade Spranklen who has produced some beautiful illustrations to accompany the album.
Illustrations by Jade Spranklen
Twitter - @Sprankenstein
Twitter - @BenLeftwich