[SINGER-SONGWRITER] It has been more than four years since Leigh Marble recorded critically acclaimed sophomore album Red Tornado, and during the elongated gestation of latest offering Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows, a succession of personal setbacks small and large deepened the new tracks' underlying emotive register. Here, the folk-tinged troubadour bends his signal genre well away from the self-styled punk Americana of his early efforts to embrace big-chorused indie pop and swaggering guitar rock, all of which meshes surprisingly well with his more introspective musings.
While the former Tape Op scribe's back catalog always revealed a certain familiarity with studio technique, his two previous full-lengths betrayed the nervous busker's energy and both the strengths and weaknesses of singer-songwriterly traditions. Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows is a far more fully realized album, as Marble luxuriates in a comfortable, confident sense of space at the same time as he expands his sonic palate to best fit the considerably more challenging tunes. Though moments hark back to the gothic stomp/folk garage of past Marble works, a vein of measured experimentalism runs through the brooding pulse of "Walk" (post-punk doom-pop rootsiness; hinterpol, let's call it) and the anthemic overdrive of "Pony," while standout track "Jackrabbit" mines T. Rex and Midnight Oil for playful, scouring indie-rock drive-time thrills. Originally intended as a "band" album, he ended up incorporating the contributions of an enviable selection of local musicians (Erin McKeown, Jesse Emerson, Rachel Taylor-Brown) to flesh out the cinematic backdrops for his incisive, aggressive lyrical stabs on topics ranging from hipsterdom's smarmy self-importance to the bitter fatalism of accepting life's grimmer realities.
The blend of a bristling intelligence and pulsating humanity—madman passion undercut with surgeon's skill—informs and strengthens the polished (but never antiseptic) production to harrowing effect that ever trembles between clinical precision and gripping urgency.
SEE IT: Leigh Marble plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., on Thursday, March 29, with the Ascetic Junkies and Kelly Anne Masigat. 9 pm. $6 advance, $8 day of show. 21+.