The Sick Leaves

Last Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

****

Eksteen Jacobsz aka Mr Sick Leaves's first two albums, Tunnel Vision and Stone the Crow, were dense, dark records.

From its title to its execution, Last Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is a less studied, airier and, at times, almost exuberant affair.

One assumes having Darryl Torr in the producer's chair has resulted in the shorter, tauter songs. The sound is lean and clean, yet there's still space to breathe in the arrangements. The Sugar Plum Fairy is polished and pretty but still bulging with muscle, like a Benoni body-builder in a tutu. The guitars are crunching, particularly on Coz You Like It and Tell It Like It is.

A personal highlight is the gorgeous slow-burner Run Away.

The album doesn't quite reach the point of pop, but is more accessible than Jacobsz's previous efforts. There are melodies that get stuck in the head and there are some big guitar solos for the rockers. Definitely a step forward. - Zane Henry