In less enlightened times, Kiran Leonard would have been shanghaied by physicians who’d saw off the top of his head as a means of discovering how on earth he does what he does. Either that, or he’d have been torched at the stake. The Oldham-based singer-songwriter- multi-instrumentalist is still only 17 years old, for Christ’s sake; but it’s worth reminding yourself that the swarming deeps, lo-fi thumbprints and careworn erudition of Bowler Hat Soup – released in a limited run of 500 vinyl copies – would represent a career-best achievement for a preternatural craftsman of any age.
Yet more outrageous is the fact that smash-and-grab album opener Dear Lincoln was written when Leonard was 14. With its spiky convolution and a vocal metre that vaults exuberantly over bar lengths, it’s too assured to be dismissed as precocity: compellingly disorderly and febrile, a snatch of its melody later gatecrashes the hardcore sear of alien suicide vignette Oakland Highball. Elsewhere, however, Drysdale is a thing of niggling beauty, picked out on lonely planet banjo, while Smilin’ Morn is a gloriously wretched piano ballad, of sorts – a cadaverous chanson with dust bunnies between its teeth and percussion resembling rats in skirting boards. Port-Ainé and Brunswick St even exorcise Jeff Buckley’s old demons in shafts of Sufjan Stevens’ sunlight.