Before we go any further, let’s take a minute to reflect on what most of us would have been spending our days as a 17-year old doing. Chances are it involved working on an awkward, borderline terrible patois that saw you neither get served at your local pub nor make any progress with the opposite sex, all the while wondering what a UCAS point was and why you needed so many of the damn things to escape to your faraway city of choice once you’d passed your A-levels.
Chances are you definitely didn’t spend it creating – in the artist’s own words - a ‘hexadecagonal pseudo-fortress of occasionally caustic and semi-illiterate pop nonsense’. But then again, perhaps Oldham’s Kiran Leonard isn’t your average teenager. That much is clear on the precocious teen’s debut offering ‘Bowler Hat Soup, a 16 track, 52-minute shining beacon of youthful ambition which sees him play 22 – count ‘em, 22 – different instruments.
Any record which starts off with the likes of the urgent alt-pop ‘Dear Lincoln’ is going to be an interesting listen, with the record’s opener bouncing around like early Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in the midst of the mother of all sugar rushes. But displaying his craft perfectly, Leonard follows it up with the delicate, Ryan Adams-esque ‘Brunswick Street’ (‘where the deadbeats meet’). Thereafter, Leonard hits his stride, throwing around all manner of musical styles at once comparable to others but also retaining an inherent, unmistakable sense of his own identity throughout. ‘Sea Of Eyes’ is a soaring Beirut-in-miniature, the off-kilter,stripped down piano-led ‘Bora Bora’ could’ve sat on the first Jeremy Warmsley album, while the pulsing, muscular and wilfully clever ‘Geraldo’s Farm’ comes across as something Yorke and Co. could’ve concocted. Likewise on the haunting, beautific closer ‘A Purpose’ sees Leonard take Kid A’s ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ and make it his own.
Where ‘Bowler Hat Soup’ scores is its ability to simultaneously be many things at once – and be them well at that. Familiar yet new and exciting, individualistic without being exclusive, ambitious yet welcoming and engaging, and inventive without becoming the sound of being clever for being clever’s sake.
And it features Let’s Eat Grandma on backing vocals!
The multi-instrumentalist has also shared ‘Living With Your Ailments’ and a handful of tour dates.