Leader Cheetah
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Leader Cheetah

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WOW. And wow again. Surprise is always a potent force in rock music, and this debut album from Adelaide band Leader Cheetah is so powerful, so fresh, so right, that I haven't stopped playing it for a week.

Like many great albums, The Sunspot Letters (Spunk) seems to operate in a space and time of its own, neither in nor out of the mainstream but built to last well beyond the usual allotted time for this year's big things.

Sources? There is certainly a late 1960s/early '70s thing to the music. That lovely winding melody and interwoven lead guitar lines on the opening song, Spirit to the Bone, remind me of Neil Young's guitar work on one of the gems of the Laurel Canyon songwriter era, David Crosby's first solo album If Only I Could Remember My Name.

As with Crosby's melodies and harmonies, there is sophistication without over-complication, a pop thrill that doesn't easily lose its flavour.

Then again, others might hear something of the '80s indie songwriter scene, songs that fit in with the best work of two of Brisbane's finest, The Go-Betweens and The Apartments.

And certainly this album is right up there with two of Australia's best bands of the present day, Augie March – who eventually found commercial success – and Belles Will Ring – who haven't yet cracked it but surely must one of these days.

The quality of the songwriting doesn't waver from track one through to 10, and the aural treats keep coming.

Alibi bounces along on a piano chord sequence and a summery melody before introducing a brass section and voices that keep soaring higher.

On Bloodlines, luscious vocal arrangements float above some gritty guitars. Dianne has some of that Crosby magic in the flowing melody.

The lyrics of songs like Wasted Life & Times paint vivid images that are as surely executed as the melodic invention and the arrangement, which nods in the direction of Burt Bacharach with its elegant horn lines.

Rosewater Smile slows the pace and increases the country-rock quotient, a heartbreakingly beautiful tune with guest vocalist Tessa Rubinstein, with echoes of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris at their bittersweet best.

The album closes with the extraordinary Fly, Gold Arrow Pt 2, shimmering like a heat-haze around a lyric that opens "I rolled into Newtown/With thoughts black and blue now/I held your confession/A bruise-coloured lesson of life . . ."

The lyrics keep drawing you in, as does the music, and after a breathtaking seven minutes and 18 seconds, you just want to cancel whatever you have to do for the rest of the day and play The Sunspot Letters over and over again.

One of the strongest Australian debut albums since Augie March's Sunset Studies. - Courier Mail, Noel Mengel


The Sunspot Letters (2009)



From the hills of Adelaide, Australia, come Leader Cheetah and their debut album ‘The Sunspot Letters’.
Comprising of two brothers (Dan & Joel Crannitch) & and two old friends (Mark Harding, Dan Pash) the band got together after their former acts decided to call it a day.
With a love of big melodies and soulful nostalgia, the band flew in US producer Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low, Daniel Johnston) to help create the timeless world they wanted their songs to live in. With an emphasis on capturing ‘in the moment’ performances and despising perfection, Kramer helped mould the recording in to an organic and deeply emotional affair. The result is a mix of soulful upbeat rockers, slow-cooked jams, and smoky moonlit ballads, all tied together by the band's love of majestic vocal harmonies and seamless dynamic arrangements. Conjuring a juxtaposition of mystery and darkness sitting beside sunshine and harmony, ‘The Sunspot Letters’ has all the elements of a great book or film that hooks you in from the beginning and doesn't let go ‘til the climatic end.
They’ve recently toured Australia with the likes of Dan Auerbach, Elbow and Liam Finn and this November they hit the road for a few dates with Blitzen Trapper to coincide with the Ltd Edn vinyl release of their debut long player.

"...the love children of Neil Young and one or two of the Flying Burrito Brothers. That is to say they're completely bexciting and the only Australian band we've heard to nail Americana..." - Alicia Brodersen, NME.com

“..an enchanting mix of surf guitars and epic song craft; it's one of the most impressive and promising debuts we’ve heard in a while.” - Triple J Feature Album

"Like many great albums, ‘The Sunspot Letters’ (Spunk) seems to operate in a space and time of its own, neither in nor out of the mainstream but built to last well beyond the usual allotted time for this year's big things.....One of the strongest Australian debut albums since Augie March's Sunset Studies." - Noel Mengel, Brisbane’s Courier Mail