Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s sophomore album, After The Rain, is released today and it is salvific – acoustic, gentle, but also sonorous and enthralling. It comes five years after his debut, Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm, and reflects the fact that over that span of time, when he overcame one of the most difficult times of his life: the loss of his father to cancer. Understandably, during this time he announced that it was time “to live outside of music” for a while. Reflecting on his father’s death, Benjamin stated “I was helpless. Without purpose… It was as if the sun has been sucked out of my sky in the most unfair and unexpected way. It totally broke me.”
The result of such difficulty and adversity, it’s the swelling of revelation that rises in the calm after what’s drowned out. But it’s also stricken through with longing – an inescapable desire for something or someone maybe present in body but not quite reachable.
The song “Summer” is not the lead or title track but somehow functions as a mission statement for the rest of the album. “It started with the feeling, I could make a brand new start,” the 26-year-old sings, his voice weaving with the timbre of percussion and a swaying melody.
The opening track, “Tilikum,” reverberates with stark melancholy. It’s simplistic and effortless and begins with a series of crystalline descending chords, a pondering refrain, and the arresting verse: “Wonder what you’re thinking, staring through the rain? Goin’ through our baby names, your husband thinks your sleeping, at a motorway hotel, he doesn’t know tonight you’re flying out of hell.” In the pointed lyricism, it is clear Leftwich wrote during the time at his lowest. The track is reminiscent but optimistic; Benjamin has said the track was written in the living room opposite his father’s old house in York, where he was desperate to reconnect.
Sounds layer upon sounds, arranged with a delicate touch. Unaffected flourishes highlight the lush acoustics. Bright strings garnish “Just Breathe,” augmenting the gentle guitar stream. A whir of electric static fills in the spaces on “Groves.” “Groves” is set to begin at his father’s deathbed, which later turns into a beautiful tribute. The production later becomes more intense, adding more musical layers to create a fitting haunting effect.
The songs tend to blend together in acoustic quietude. The album registers more as an extended rolling sensation, rather than a series of tracks or notes. Leftwich produced this album as the outcome of a long and difficult personal period of mourning and we do get a sense of that grief but it undoubtedly rings most with him. To lay bear such emotion in such an open and honest manners makes for a courageous record that with hopefully speak and sooth others who find themselves in similar difficulties. After The Rain envelops us, lulls us with its inevitably and ultimate leaves us feeling cleansed.
The album is now available for purchase on iTunes and streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.