Nate Leslie. To some, that name is just another name you don’t know. To some, it’s a name they’ve heard a few times in relation to his music. To others, Nate Leslie is synonymous with self-produced records and all around guitar wizard. I know Nate as a genuine human being, an incredible father, and an impossibly passionate musician. I’ve never met anyone in my life so completely devoted to music as a whole. Lover of all artists, master of instruments, and a quick study. An underdog hero of the unrecognized artists, Nate features musicians that he really likes whether they are popular or not. Nate is the kind of guy who will use the phrase, “sonically brilliant,” and “my baby just threw up on me,” in the same sentence. He just is.
Nate Leslie just released his 5th full length album today, The Midwest is Still Dreaming! Still he gave me the album a month in advance for a test-drive. Previous albums include, Whose Fault The Grammar (2009), Force My Hand (2011), Burst (2012), and Awake Music (2013). My personal favorite is Burst, but Awake Music hits you like a loud brick in the face and holds some of my favorite songs on his albums.
The Midwest is Still Dreaming is a horse of a different color. Previous albums featured a typical, recognizable, Nate Leslie sound. While this album also retains this defining quality, the feel of the album has shifted. Diverting away from a rockier sound like Awake Music or Burst, The Midwest is Still Dreaming gets in touch with the deeper, underlying emotions of his music making.
I made sure to put this album through a series of tests that I usually carry-out with new music. I listen to the album with a good pair of headphones twice. Then I give the album the car test and see how the music feels in a car. Nate has clearly put loads of time and effort into this album, but it’s more than that. The Midwest is Still Dreaming feels like he cut out his heart and let it spin on the vinyl player. The songs that immediately stood out to me as sources of this passion were I Think, Therefore I’m Wrong, Pentrails, Truth Is, Speaking Death, and Illinois.
The album starts with I Think, Therefore I’m Wrong and it’s slow, like waking up gradually from sleep. Then the song spikes you with a rhythm good enough for any car test. It’s a great song. The next song enters with a gleeful cacophony of guitars and drums followed closely by the poppy and catchy Pentrails with very recitable lyrics. There is an airy happiness to this song that compliments the songs that are maybe not-so-happy. Truth Is starts in an acoustic dream state with Nate calling out to the listener as if from a happier place. Nate manages to inject an emotional 2-minute ethereal lull near the end of the song that just works. I’ve Been Found Out is an example of the most intimate setting Nate sets for the listener, inviting and even daring them to join him in his pain. Speaking Death kicks the album back into a dark-rock-gear that is unique for Nate. Darker cords, darker lyrics, and a heavier presence, this song kicks ass. This song isn’t afraid to get dark and ends on an incredible riff. Illinois is arguably my favorite song on this album. I heard it a long time ago in the beginning stages and knew it would be a hit. This song encompasses the entire album. A ballad for anyone who has lived in Illinois and sometimes feel trapped. Illinois is a love song to the State, complete with all of its scars. A song about how IL is great and horrible all in one mediocrely wrapped package. Nate lands the next song on a high note, bringing the pace back up and follows that with Riot Dose, which starts slowly and keeps this pace, as if Nate is bringing you into the Midwest dream once again. Ending with Onward and Downward, Nate snaps you back into reality with an upbeat, brilliantly produced track, that passed with flying colors in my car.
The Midwest is Still Dreaming just might be the album that Nate has worked the hardest on. With the longest stint between albums and working well over three years on completing the full record, it’s an impressive accomplishment. Nate’s devotion to his craft and unique sound, coupled with the fact that he sings every song, plays every instrument, mixes every track, and edits every single one of these songs to perfection continues to blow my mind. A father of three and working more than half of his day…this album an incredible feat. Get amongst this music and improve your day.
Be sure to grab the album here: Full Album Link
MUSIC VIDEO for Onward and Downward: