Leslie Mendelson has announced her new studio album, 'If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…' will be released April 17 via Royal Potato Family. The first single and title track is released today (listen/share). Where Leslie's previous work focused heavily on relationships and matters of the heart, this latest collection examines anxiety stemming from the current sociopolitical climate with songs like "Medication," "I Need Something To Care About" and "Would You Give Up Your Gun." The resulting album is viscerally themed, imaginatively arranged and oozing raw elegance.
"The anger and depression got to me, and I couldn't hold it in anymore. So, I got into a room with my demons and we just hit record," shares Mendelson. "I deal with depression and anxiety, and I've never really sang about it before. It felt like what was going on with society was affecting me, in terms of gun violence, the opioid crisis, and all the hatred in the news and media. It felt like it was time to speak out."
Leslie Mendelson has released two prior albums, including her Grammy Award-nominated debut, 'Swan Feathers,' one EP, and three singles. Her first album exhibited a production sheen she opted to strip away on her predominately acoustic sophomore effort, 'Love & Murder.' For this latest album, Leslie and her longtime co-writer and guitarist Steve McEwan, who co-produced alongside bassist and engineer Lorenzo Wolff, split the difference in terms of production, while also adding some garage-rock bluster. Conceptually, the recording was largely inspired by John Lennon’s 'Plastic Ono Band' album. Besides being emotive and topical of the day, Leslie favored its no-frills piano, bass, drums, and guitar approach.
"The best time to make a rock n' roll record is when you're broke and pissed off," explains Mendelson. "We had started and stopped recording on a handful of occasions, trying to figure out how to make the album on a small budget, but also without making another folk-leaning record like 'Love & Murder.' Around this same time, I had rediscovered and fallen in love all over again with John Lennon's 'Plastic Ono Band' and it instantly provided a road map for how to move forward."
'If You Can't Say Anything Nice…' opens with the urgent love song, "Lay It All On Me." The track unfolds theatrically with dramatic dynamic shifts. The lyrics are emotive and direct with such lines as: "I just want to ease your pain/Beat the hammer through these walls/Anything that I can say/To make your fears feel so small/So lay it all on me."
The dangers of self-medication in the age of readily available options pervade the intimately reflective ballad, "Medication." On the title track, Leslie channels her inner Nick Cave, swaggering and snarling through filthy-but-catchy blues-rock. The self-explanatory "Would You Give Up Your Gun" is a stirring, elegantly emotive political track. "I Need Something To Care About" opens with the lines: "I can’t feel a thing for anything/Thinking that my mind’s desensitized." The song is a plea to pull oneself from a numbing depression caused by the over exposure to media. Here, the contrast of airy piano melodic figures, treated vocals, and delicate ambient textures create a swirl of emotions within the music.
The arrival of 'If You Can't Say Anything Nice…' follows a career defining 2019 for Leslie. She and McEwan were asked to collaborate with Jackson Browne on the stirring composition "A Human Touch" that was featured in the acclaimed documentary film, '5B,' about the San Francisco General Hospital AIDS ward during the early '80s. Leslie and Jackson also performed together at The Beacon Theatre in NYC in June 2019, while she joined him throughout his West Coast tour in August 2019 to perform the song. In addition, Leslie was invited to open for The Who twice at Madison Square Garden in May and September 2019.
Leslie will perform extensively throughout 2020 in support of 'If You Can't Say Anything Nice…' She’ll appear at The Town Hall in New York City on April 22 as part of the Earth Day concert celebration, Live Climate. In May, she tours the northeast with Jackie Greene with headline dates will be announced shortly.
'IF YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING NICE...'
1. Lay It All On Me
3. If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…
4. Would You Give Up Your Gun?
5. All Come Together
6. I Need Something To Care About
7. The Hardest Part
8. Flesh & Bone
9. Speed of Light
10. My Dark Peace
2/8 - New York, NY - Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 3)
4/22 - New York, NY - The Town Hall
5/6 - Washington, DC - City Winery Washington DC *
5/7 - Ardmore, PA - Ardmore Music Hall *
5/8 - Amagansett, NY - Stephen Talkhouse *
5/10 - New York, NY - City Winery NYC (2 shows) *
5/12 - Boston, MA - City Winery Boston *
5/13 - Fairfield, CT - The Warehouse FTC *
5/14 - Hartford, CT - Infinity Hall Hartford *
* w/ Jackie Greene