The six song collection Leaflike from South African born singer/songwriter Jeri Silverman is a surprising synthesis of folk music influences, light electronica, and groove focused percussion. Silverman’s voice has great technical fluency and a meaningful range capable of investing the songs with a variety of vocal moods. Her technical skill as a singer never inhibits her ability to dramatize the songs and convey emotion in an affecting way. The arrangements are quite uncluttered and its clear, even after a cursory listen, that her songwriting makes a deliberate effort to keep space open between the notes. The result is that her material has a light, fleet-footed step that nevertheless moves forward with confidence.
Brief, lyrical piano passages gently spar with Silverman’s voice in the opening moments of “Anywhere But Here” before providing counterpoint to the soon emerging rhythm section. The aforementioned theatrical phrasing makes its presence felt here as Silverman inches her way through specific, though open-ended, lyrical imagery. Silverman introduces sleek and melodic guitar accompaniment on “G&A” and its presence underscores the song’s late night vibe, but the drumming emphasizes it further. It’s arguably the EP’s best example of compelling counterpoint – the rhythm section’s groove and velvety six string work are an excellent mix here. Silverman’s vocal quavers with genuine sensitivity, but she clearly shows herself capable of invoking the same smoky ambiance as the playing. The EP’s third song, “The Fever”, opens with a keyboard driven melody and Silverman’s plaintive vocals playing off against each other. Percussion soon joins in, but it’s never obtrusive and does little more than hold down a fluid bottom end. Silverman’s voice, at certain points, takes on a Fiona Apple-esque huskiness that further demonstrates her singing range.
“Rabbit” has another fine lyric and a simple acoustic guitar melody opening the song. The guitar, thereafter, alternates between brief lyrical passages and precise fills that add shimmering colors to an already lustrous track. Silverman’s voice has a crystalline feel but she stretches enough key notes to hear the genuine ache underlying her performance. This is one of the release’s most pensive efforts. She covers Fleetwood Mac to surprisingly inventive effect with the song “Dreams”. Tackling an iconic Stevie Nicks vocal might denote a certain amount of hubris in Silverman’s makeup, but her re-envisioning of this legendary song is equal parts personal and respectful. Guitar imbues the title track with beautiful lyricism from the outset, but the song knows when to rein it in and employ it in a different way. Silverman’s vocal alternates between playfulness and deadly seriousness, but she demonstrates an innate understanding of how to tackle this unusual material. The title track makes use of contrasting dynamics in ways that the EP’s earlier songs avoid in its shifting between quieter passages and low-key crescendos. It’s a strong ending for the EP and wraps things up with a decidedly artistic touch.
The light, artistic touch evident on the final song can be found working throughout this release. Leaflike has moments of extraordinary sensitivity scattered throughout, but more importantly perhaps, Silverman’s soulfulness burns brightly in each of the EP’s six songs. This is an impressive work in every respect.