Driven by a heavy strut that initially feels like something out of the old school, it doesn’t take long into “Looking Glass” to realize that Jonah Leatherman isn’t interested in issuing a classic rock throwback with their debut album. These Indianans are transfixed on amplifier fuzz and melodic palatability, and when combined, they wind up producing some of the more ripping indie rock tracks I’ve listened to this season in their self-titled debut album, which is currently out and making some significant waves with critics around the underground. Whether it’s the soft hook in “Looking Glass” or the more evasive swinger “Moody Judy,” the theme here remains consistent – turn up the volume, take out the filler, and give us the kind of rock that’s more organic than it is obtuse.
It’s hard to picture the punchy “Sunhat” or the roaring “Couldn’t Find Any Reason” working on any of the straight hybrid offerings I’ve been hearing a lot of on both coastlines in 2022, but when Jonah Leatherman sticks them next to a song like “Mourning Glory,” the material flows together like it was always meant to share the same setlist. Continuity has been, for the most part, something I feel like a lot of this band’s peers have been going out of their way to reject in the past two years especially, as pandemic insularities and eclecticisms have replaced different elements of conventionality beloved by critics. This crew doesn’t come off as if they’re impressed by this movement, and instead stays on a singular trajectory that executes consistency everywhere we look and listen.
“Castle Stones” doesn’t have the same girth of guitar power that “Sunhat” or even the slow-rolling “Between the Lines” does, but this band’s style isn’t dependent on volume to the extent where everything here has to have a fat frontend to sound like a complete piece. If anything, the bits of diversity that we do find in the guts of “Strings” or “Mourning Glory” imply an eagerness to expand from what Jonah Leatherman already has in this debut, which is more than can be said for the majority of the rookie acts that I review in this job. These guys are already outgrowing a sound they’re starting with, and that bodes well for what their future might sound like.
I was immediately entranced with Jonah Leatherman upon hearing “Westward the Wagons,” a nice homage to the hipster rock of an Occupy Wall Street-era America and found that by the time I reached “Moody Judy,” there wasn’t a lot of ground that these players weren’t willing to at least touch on in their mission to create a well-rounded greenhorn LP. As I interpret it, this record is so much more a projection of aspirations than it is a statement of self, and if we’re to judge what might come next for Jonah Leatherman just on what we’ve heard in their first full-length studio album, I would have to say they’re going to be worth keeping up with for certain.
by Jennifer Munoz