On May 14th Tea Leaf Green dropped their eighth studio album In The Wake. Funded in part by a successful Kickstarter.com campaign this multi-year project is the first to feature the band’s new quintet arrangement. With the addition of Cochrane McMillan on percussion, Tea Leaf Green has set out on a mission to create a new and unique sound. In The Wake is a deeply personal account of the band’s struggles and triumphs from its opening line in Someday: “Someday, I’m going to catch a break.”
The opening track of the album sounds at first like another classic Tea Leaf ballad, accentuated by the powerful lyrics of Keyboardist/Vocalist Trevor Garrod. However, the underlying percussive drive of McMillan becomes apparent, drawing attention to the professional level sound mixing of Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine). Track two is the first of Guitarist/Vocalist Josh Clark’s space themed tunes that litter the record. A literal one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn from Someday, Space Hero II features heavy guitar chords and thumping percussion.
Penny Saved follows and is the first track that really grabs the listener’s attention. Laced with a strong violin track and a prominent horn section, the song is the band’s most intricate display of composition to date. The upbeat tune features a prevailing bass solo by Reed Mathis, whose tone has become a staple of the band’s new sound. All of My Love features more of Tea Leaf Green’s fresh compositional direction, but seems too distant from the overall sound of the rest of the record. Driven by a strong violin track, it is hard to imagine how the band will recreate this tune on stage.
The title song follows and does little more than weaken the middle of the album. However, In The Wake features an interesting percussion line and as a whole takes on a very “Beck-like” sound. Saving the heart of the record is the bands first single Give Me One More Chance. The tune features Lesley Grant on vocals, giving the easygoing tune some real potential to be a radio hit. The track is a true conglomerate of Tea Leaf Green’s individual talents, with strong vocals by Garrod, catchy slide guitar by Clark, and backed by a fresh beat from the trio of Mathis, McMillan, and drummer Scott Rogers.
Reed Mathis’ One Condition’s Enough follows and once again features a driving horn section. Although having been a member of the band since 2007, hearing Mathis’ vocals on a Tea Leaf Green record is a new experience. The catchy song has a lot of potential and works nicely to carry the listener into the last half of the record. A smooth transition leads to Space Hero III. Clark punctuates the trippy ambience of the song with acoustic guitar, providing a fresh sound for both himself as a musician and the band as a whole. Two Parts continues the spacy-acoustic tone, wandering through several interesting sections of music, led continuously by Garrod’s soft vocals.
The album’s tenth track, Don’t Go, pushes the ambient rock sound even further. Mathis takes another shot, leading the band with the personal tone of his lyrics. The final chapter of Clark’s Space Hero comes next with Space Hero IV. The most straight forward rock & roll song of the entire record is charged with a powerful solo from Clark, and has true potential to explode in a live setting. Mr. E and The Cosmic Receptacle is a very obscure tune that returns to the space-rock theme underlying the record. However, the band makes a solid rebound to finish the album with We Aren’t Done. Garrod closes the record with an extremely catchy pop-rock song that showcases his lyrical prowess that never seems to dwindle.
There is no doubt that In The Wake is unlike anything Tea Leaf Green has done before. The level of musical composition, intricacy of sound mixing, and representation of each band member is unmatched by any of the band’s previous work. The band who has been searching for a new sound and musical direction has finally found it. While they will certainly lose the interest of fans who live for the lengthy improvisational jams that were once a staple of Tea Leaf Green, the band is sure to gather a fresh audience who will appreciate the intricate and unique sound they have carved out for themselves. Nevertheless, Tea Leaf Green has always been more of a live act than a studio band, which creates a lot of anticipation to see how these new songs will evolve on stage.