A lot of critics might circle the issue, but we’re in near-universal agreement when I say that rock music is getting way too conceptual in 2022. From the neo-progressive efforts to the surreal trends we’re seeing more and more of in the American underground and beyond, the great rock records of yesteryear seem to have left behind a rather perverted way of communicating through distortion, but it’s not stopping Jonah Leatherman from persevering with their sound nonetheless right now.
The band’s debut record, titled simply Jonah Leatherman, rejects the zealous concepts of their peers and instead embraces the simple, with songs like “Between the Lines,” “Strings,” “Couldn’t Find Any Reason,” and “Castle Stones” embodying a much more cut and dry approach to melody and might than what I’ve been getting used to out of the indie circuit lately. From what I can tell from this tracklist, Jonah Leatherman is not a band that wants to get lost in the lyricism of a postmodern movement but instead focus on the basics of the rock model as they were originally meant to be enjoyed and, more importantly, evolved. “Westward the Wagons” and “Mourning Glory” each have hooks that sold me on their radio appeal, but neither one sounds like it was recorded just with the FM market in mind.
Jonah Leatherman adeptly uses elements of rhythm and even a lack of melodic shape in tracks like “Strings” and “Sunhat” to give themselves a sense of identity akin to something we would expect from a band that we’ve been listening to for decades rather than mere days, and it never sounds like just an act. The groove in “Couldn’t Find Any Reason” and “Moody Judy” is a spirit of passion that cannot be stifled for anything here, even the weightiness of the guitar parts. Whether it be the harmonies or the harrowing arrangements that give them so much spring in their step, this record’s best moments are driven entirely by desire rather than mechanical intrigue, which is a lot more than I was expecting from a group that is just now starting to get some traction outside of their local scene.
Listen to Jonah Leatherman on Spotify. Jonah Leatherman · Album · 2022 · 9 songs.
It all comes down to details in indie rock nowadays, and this is why Jonah Leatherman is getting the mad respect from critics and listeners that they are right now. This isn’t an amateur stab at what rock n’ roll might sound like in a different universe, but instead one that gives us insight into what it can be today when the right musicians are giving it a course to the primetime that hasn’t been taken in a long, long time now. Rock n’ roll has lost a lot of intellect over the years, but much as Queens of the Stone Age restored some integrity to the heavier side of music some two decades ago, Jonah Leatherman is looking to do something quite similar in 2022, and they’re starting the right way with songs like “Looking Glass,” “Mourning Glory,” an the taut “Couldn’t Find Any Reason.”