Los Angeles based, sultry songstress Leerone has unleashed her new full-length album. Veritably seething with the spirit of emancipation and self-discovery, Heart Shaped Bullets pulls the trigger on a new, self-styled brand of soul revivalism-a collection of songs compelling enough to jog listeners out of their workaday complacency into a new, experiential way of living. Heart Shaped Bullets is co-written and produced by Chris Seefried (Rosanne Cash, Joseph Arthur), who also lends his talents on Fitz And The Tantrums’ first EP and full-length (including their hit song “MoneyGrabber”). The result is an assemblage of semi-autobiographical rock-inflected original songs that suggest some heaven-sent collusion between Nancy Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, PJ Harvey & the Black Keys.
Heart Shaped Bullets is the sound of an artist unshackling herself from societal and personal restraints. While an accomplished singer/songwriter prior to this release, playing keyboards and fronting her own band, this album marks the next step in Leerone’s musical evolution. The hellcat side of her nature was briefly evident on previous recordings but when she looked ahead, Leerone found herself at a proverbial crossroads. “As I was writing my new songs, I realized that there was a part of myself that wasn’t being expressed. My heartfelt sweetness was easy for me to access but my fiery side wanted more of a voice.” Leerone says. “It literally felt like a tiger was clawing in my chest screaming, ‘hey! I need to speak!’ ”
That bold and gutsy inner tigress-an imaginary persona Leerone calls “the bully in the chest”-was uncaged during Leerone’s first session with writer/producer Chris Seefried. In a matter of minutes, their collaboration resulted in “Suzanne,” the unabashed hip swaying rocker that revealed her new direction. While Leerone set out on a personal journey to meet her hell-raising id and live to sing about it with non-musical explorations and exercises to feel more alive, Seefried was more than willing to aid and abet Leerone in her new musical adventures. They used beats and/or guitar licks that aimed squarely for the loins to inspire new melodies and song directions. Of course, while impulsive and dangerous, Leerone’s paradoxically sweet core remains present in all of her songs, especially those with emotive performances like the epic ballad “Feel.” The simultaneously feisty and sweet expressions make for a compelling juxtaposition and exemplify our human complexity and our many colors.
Staying true to her love of vintage, the album’s single/video for “She’s Your Bird,” (currently #12 most added at CMJ radio) pays homage to the knife-edged film noir movies of the postwar era and stylishly explores themes of repression, transformation and liberation. With visuals of the bomb-shell and evening glove adorned Leerone performing in a night club that could be out of the days of Sarah Vaughn and Lena Horne, the music video comes on like a short film adaptation of a mysterious 1950s pulp novel.
Speaking on the classic flair that accompanies her style and sound, Leerone says “I have always been drawn to raw, authentic and vintage sounds that capture the time they were created in like a snapshot. Spirituals, prisoner songs, early blues and even the middle-eastern songs I experienced growing up” (Leerone was born in Israel and though she grew up in Los Angeles returned there often as a child). This attraction of vintage extends to instruments as well, with Leerone owning numerous analog synths and vintage keyboards including a Wurlitzer, Moog, Farfisa and Rhodes piano. “Aside from my love of knobs, there’s something so cool and sexy about the design of those old machines; they were so personal and truly had personality. Learning to play each analog synth and find the specific sound you’re looking for is an art in itself.”
Leerone has two EPs and one previous full-length, Imaginary Biographies under her belt. She has shored up her indie-rock bona fides with performances at the MidPoint Music Festival (2011) and the San Diego IndieFest (2010) alongside the likes of Metric and Far. In addition, she has performed on stages with such artists as Joan Osbourne, Sea Wolf and Vast. Her songs have been featured on hit TV series’ such as CBS’s “The Ex-Factor,” MTV’s “The Real World” and TLC’s “LA Ink.”
Heart Shaped Bullet’s raw, gutsy and nostalgically vintage roots are broadly appealing, but its adventure-craving spirit will especially engross those questioners, dreamers and lovers who seek a slightly more uncivilized truth.