Album Review: Breaking Away – The Sick-Leaves
I’ve declared our appreciation for The Sick-Leaves, South African rock musician Eksteen Jacobsz’ solo alter ego, on these pages in the past.
Now, having had his latest release Breaking Away on a bit of regular rotation over the last few days, I’m pleased to say that it hasn’t been wasted appreciation.
Breaking Away is an 8-track EP available as a digital download only (see the wide list of online vendors below). It’s the 4th official ‘album’ release from the twice SAMA-nominated guitarist, and an aural evolution from Last Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, TS-L’s previous outing.
As before, Jacobsz has written all of the material on Breaking Away, and performs all the vocals as well as playing lead and bass guitar throughout the recording. Wayne Kennith Pictor laid down the drums. Six tracks were recorded at SABC’s M5 and Openroom studios with Darryl Torr and the remaining two were recorded at Sting studios with Matthew Fink. Fink, who produced The Sick-Leaves SAMA nominated first and second albums, also mixed and produced the new release.
Eksteen mentions in his online ‘liner notes’ that “Breaking Away is for me a culmination of the past 7 years’ experience I’ve gained through recording music, playing it live and living. For me it is the most enjoyable Sick-Leaves album to listen to and also the most representative of the sound I am after.”
As a whole, the album is a distinct progression from the more heavily produced and studio-polished sound that came out on Sugarplum Fairy. The songs are punchier, louder, stronger. More ‘forceful’ than ‘forced’. The result is half an hour of solid guitar driven rock played with an obvious deep passion for his craft (with some interesting funky and bluesy riffs thrown in as well.) Eksteens’ virtuosity with his guitars is well known, and his performance on Breaking Away simply re-emphasizes his abilities.
Only this time, his playing is more natural, easier to appreciate. It’s as if he has taken time to find the limits of his hardware, pushed it to those limits, and then reverbed the hell out of things just to see what would happen. Structurally and lyrically the songs are as strong as ever. But it’s in the musical accompaniment to the thoughtful words where Breaking Away reveals a side of the artist that was underplayed on the previous effort.
That side is of an unapologetic rocker who is no longer overly concerned with trying to produce pleasing radio-ready mainstream music. He has stopped well short of selling his (musical) soul to the corporate tastemakers and produced a set of tracks to please himself first and foremost. Cookie-cutter formulaic rock it is not. He has metaphorically and effectively ‘broken away’ from being tied down to a sound he thought people wanted him to play, and has instead delivered something that he’ll be rightfully proud of in time to come.
Commercial radio and pop-rock sing-along somebodies probably wont get it. Campus radio stations and indie rock music fans will love it. It’s for that second group that Jacobsz has produced the album:
It might be a while before another Sick-Leaves album is released again, so enjoy it and thank you for all your support. Without you there is no point to all of this.
The Sick-Leaves’ Eksteen Jacobsz
Sadly, that comment also alludes to a “breaking away” of another kind, and whilst this may be the last we hear from The Sick-Leaves for sometime, I feel confident that Eksteen Jacobsz will be back in one form or another soon enough.
Stand out tracks: “Breaking Away” and “They Died With Their Boots On”
Favourite track: “Fanning The Flames”
Album Rating: 4 escaped space shuttles out of 5
You can buy Breaking Away from the following online stores (E Music, Look & Listen and Spotify will also carry the album soon):
- iTunes (US Store)
- Bandcamp (accepts credit cards and Paypal)
- Rhythm Music Store (very easy to use for South Africans)
- Nokia Ovi Music Store (Ovi SA site, with Rand pricing)
Visit The Sick-Leaves online at www.thesickleaves.com for more information and insight.
Disclosure Note: The BlaBla Blog received a copy of Breaking Away for review purposes. This fact in no way influenced this review. Besides, we would have bought our own copy anyway!