Album Review: People You Know – Leaves and Branches
Rusty Clanton and Tessa Violet are people you know. I mean… People You Know. If you’re a follower of this blog, Rusty Clanton is definitely someone you should know. I have covered him a few times and he even shot a really rad Q&A video for us a few years back. He’s good people and he reminds me of Matt Thiessen, who is one of my ultimate favorite people. This album is infectious pop gold and I’ve personally listened to it about a hundred times. The production quality is impeccable and the people are adorable. The songs are even better.
“Stuck With You” is an adorable track that will have your toe tapping from the very start. Rusty and Tessa sing together with beautiful precision. They come together like a match made in twee heaven. That said, their music is also technically very well written. The hooks are there and the harmonies are absolutely rich. Please don’t take my use of terms like “adorable” and “beautiful” as a knock on the ridiculously good artistry that these folks have as well.
“I Been Waiting” is a bit of a different flavor. It’s definitely passionately pop music, but it’s also got more of an 80s feeling to it. There’s something about the “oohs” on the appropriately named “hook” of the song that keeps it floating around in your head for a while. The timber of their voices really seems to click on this song in particular. It’s as if these two unique uke-playing soloists melded together for an 80s power pop song that sort of fused them into one super musician.
“The Way You Move” is the most intimate song on the album. Both in its construction and its message, it’s clearly a lover’s song. It’s not just a love song of one person expressing love toward another; rather, it’s a track full of implications of true intimacy. It leads nicely to “Easy to Love” which sort of lets the air out of the “room” listening to the album. The chord progression on the chorus of this one might be my favorite part on the whole album. It’s a bit more like The Partridge Family than any acts that are dominating the airwaves today, but that’s a huge compliment in my book. The timeless harmonies and “gee-whiz golly-shucks” antics of these two make the album infectious, as I said earlier. I can’t stop listening to it.
The song I heard first (that made me look for this album) is “Mama Told Me.” It’s a fantastic song. I love everything about it. The chord progressions are perfect. The sentiment is endearing. It’s about moving on after a break up. “Why did you go? Why do I still wait up for you?” The phrasing on this song is like a songwriting clinic. It’s seriously so well done that I listen to it over and over. Rusty’s solo recording of this one on his YouTube is really great, too. This full production version is so polished, though, that I find it really entertaining. The bridge sounds so much like Matt Thiessen wrote it that I just… feel amazing. I am sure there’s a more technical way to put that, but it is one of the highlights of the album.
“My Love, I Love You So” is as pure a love song as you’ll find. The minor chords defy the typical pop song construction found on the rest of the album. The sincerity drips from each line of the song, especially in the intonation of both Rusty and Tessa’s voices. The “Cabin Song” is a wonderful little duo song. The two singers pass the lead back and forth seamlessly. The sweetness of their love comes across evidently. The whistling and the “ooohs” on this one just fill my heart with so much joy.
This isn’t just an album that I “like.” It’s not something I’ll put on the shelf as “not bad.” I am sad I found it a little late because it should really have ranked in my top albums for 2015. That said, it almost immediately moves into “instant classic” area for me. It’s thoroughly the kind of music that I love written by two people that come across as genuinely beautiful souls. I get the impression that I’d enjoy going to a coffeeshop with them, just chatting about life and love and happiness. This kind of existential connection doesn’t happen with every album, but it does with People You Know. Their moniker is more than just a clever phrase; they come across as amiable people who love making music and love one another. It’s a response to a calling and it is an all time favorite album for me.