Under Grape Leaves marks a beautiful and earnest new chapter in Andre Ethier’s discography.
“Welcome to the Jungle”: four words that conjure up a very specific style of popular music; one of a time several decades removed. But Toronto’s Andre Ethier takes that phrase and turns it on its head on Under Grape Leaves, a soothing but still powerful journey through the lush, untamed expanse of the mind and the soul.
The production on this record is equal parts acoustic and electronic. The undercurrents of 808 beats are prevalent at many points throughout this record and mesh surprisingly well with Andre’s low baritone. “Banana Grove” is the perfect soundtrack to the metaphorical jungle the listener is travelling through—complete with a guitar solo to boot!
Hints of wind chimes (“Big Wheel at the Ashram”), mellotron synths (“I’ll See Myself In Your High”), and even flute (the hilarious and yet breathtaking interlude “On Mondays”) show an impressive attention to detail in Andre’s melodic tendencies. Where Ethier shines the most is on tracks like “Parallel Highways”—the closest he comes to writing a country song, with hints of a slide guitar lurking beneath the mix— and album closer “Making a Living”. You haven’t heard what Ethier can do until you hear the saxophone solo on this track perfectly mesh with lyrics describing working in the Dodgers dugout (yes, you read that right).
As a new year approaches, rebirth and the promise of new and exciting opportunities fill the air. Under Grape Leaves is the right album to reinforce that music can not only be an escape, but a powerful storytelling tool. Pull up a chair, grab a lemonade, and listen for yourself.