Dallas-based singer-songwriter Iris Leu waited until after college to start her musical career, but she’s making up for lost time. Hitting the boards in 2005, she garnered early praise from the Dallas Songwriters Association, Unisong, and International Music Awards song contests. She followed up her debut EP, 2007’s permanent transient, with a couple of months touring colleges and festivals across the South and Northeast. Inspired by her road experiences, she returned home and wrote 40 songs. Culling the herd to just 10, she recorded Hushaboo over eight months at Bass Propulsion Laboratories.
Leu’s crystalline voice and economical piano accompaniment tenderly traverse the contours of her gracefully arcing melodies. As a writer, she finds resonance in the nuances of everyday relationships and situations. This kind of confessional songwriting can be difficult to translate to disc — what sounds intimate in live performance often seems precious in a recorded medium, without the singer’s presence to help put it across. Producers Todd Pipes and Nolan Thies have crafted a lush, modern sound for the tracks, while ex-Jackopierce and current Maren Morris musos provided complementary settings that added depth and color (skirting Radiohead territory on “Manifesto”) without overshadowing Leu’s songcraft.
The tracks are a varied lot, from the stately elegance of “Hush” to the bustling forward motion of “Twentyone,” with Theis’ ghostly guitar lending a Daniel Lanois-like ambience to the relatively rockin’ “The Red Bird.” A clicking dance beat propels “Ipso Facto,” overlaid with a soupçon of string synth – the track might have had more impact if the producers had gone totally retro and layered in some icy ’80s-synth sounds. Leu’s at her best, though, on the big, dramatic swooners like “Hollowsville” and the closer, “After All Is Done.” Both display the singer’s emotion at its most unadorned. –