2006 is shaping up to be another fine year for music with releases from old veterans like Yo La Tengo and Grandaddy more than fulfilling expectations. But it definitely lacks a few things that we all need. After their stunning tour and appetising glimpses of new songs we need another Radiohead album and it's been so long since A Ghost Is Born that I think everyone would agree that we certainly need a new Wilco album but as Mr Yorkson shuffles his feet up to the plate to make his mark on this year it soon becomes clear that we don't need Year Of The Leopard. I don't come to this opinion lightly as I am a huge fan of Yorkston's honest and strangely uplifting style of folk but this new offering seems to lack all those attributes and is dull to say the least. A great deal of (dish) water has trickled under the bridge in the world of nu-folk since Yorkston's beautiful second album Just Beyond The River, so to emerge after 2 years with this is just not good enough.
We were dazzled by his presence at the Homefires festival and it was clear that he was a trailblazer for the impressively low key yet fiercely progressive Fence Collective, but since then his subordinates have lapped him in creativity and even though he pumps out new music all the time I could certainly handle another King Creosote album.
Yorkston has eased off on the lush orchestration that layered his previous albums opting instead for Homefires organiser Adem's stripped down style of drowsy folk and that's where the problem lies. Where Adem's voice has the intimate closeness that commands your attention, Yorkston just seems too tired or bored to command anything and before all you blinkered fans out there argue that Yorkston's understated and low-key style is the what makes his music work I would have to refer you to the latest Jason Molina offering or fellow Domino artist Bonnie "Prince" Billy as examples of just how captivating this style of music can be.
Each song follows the same structure with delicate finger picking ushering in hushed, whispering vocals until a feint swell of violins brings the whole thing to an easy close only to begin again and again. The Athletes seem to have all but disappeared and the only song that strives to break from this structure is the aptly titled Woozy With Cider, where Yorkston uses ill considered spoken word to tell his crazy tales of drunken debauchery.
Year Of The Leopard just proves that in a highly competitive market, feet shuffling simply won't do and illustrates perfectly the phrase 'If you snooze, you lose.'