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Leah Callahan - Curious Tourist (self-released)

2 May 2024

Genres are okay if you like that sort of thing, but the danger of getting too attached to them, at least for the artist looking to be truly creative, is that you might find yourself toeing the line, following the rules, adhering to the fads, the fashions and just becoming part of the pack. I always find the most exciting music is made on the fringes, at the liminal points where one sound or style washes up against another. And where the shimmering world of shoegazery ebbs and flows across the pop divide, that’s where you find Leah Callahan.

Curious Tourist is a gorgeous album; there is no other word for it. Well, there are probably loads, but that is the one that I’m going for. Ten songs that are driven by the same infectiousness and addictions of the best pop music but fashioned from more deft sonic materials. The guitars coil and spiral around more robust riffs, bass lines add both melodic texture and rhythmic groove and the drums are unfussy, concise and brilliantly to the point.

“Ordinary Face” seems to wander between alt-rock modernity and 60s psychedelic, chamber-pop moods. “Wish” jangles and jives with Byrdsian vibes (and therefore so too those of later imitators such as The Darling Buds and The Primitives). “Nowhere Girl” is a potential chart-botherer, all gloss and sophistication, chiming textures and svelt tones. On reflection, its charms would probably go over the average pop-picker’s head, but that is their loss.

As a more observant writer than I once pointed out, Leah Callahan makes albums in an age where albums are not very much in style and Curious Tourist is a musical journey and all that such an odyssey entails rather than merely a bunch of songs. And that is about as high praise as you can give someone in this short attention span, throw-away age.