Land of Leland first made a mark on the New York indie scene in 2010 with a self-titled EP, a collection of intimate and slightly mysterious songs, full of longing and wonder. Their second release, Home/Away, reveals a more complex, fleshed-out and extroverted side, weaving lyrical melodies with rich layering and elegant harmonies, and a theme that’s relatable to many of this generation: how do I figure out my place in the world? Started by singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Justin Keller, Land of Leland’s music owes an equal debt to his formal education, from Bach, to Coltrane, to Stravinsky, and his long-time love of popular music, from the punk bands on skateboard videos he watched as a kid, to his parents’ Fleetwood Mac records, to Hank Williams.
While studying jazz saxophone at the New England Conservatory, Justin was also discovering the music of Beach House, Sufjan Stevens, and Bon Iver. After a move to Brooklyn, he started playing with bands like The Welcome Wagon, The Lone Bellow, and The Gregory Brothers, further developing a reverence for the power of a good song. Creating his first EP was mostly a solitary endeavor, recorded in his Ditmas Park apartment. He played most of the instruments, but also enlisted some friends, including Bridget Kearney of Lake Street Dive and Heather Masse of the Wailin’ Jennys.
For Home/Away, he sought the isolated tranquility of rural New Hampshire to document the songs from his last four years in New York, songs that explore commitment, aging, and the significance of location. After preliminary recording sessions in Brooklyn with producer Anthony LaMarca of The War on Drugs, Justin went back to the “studio,” this time a small room of a country house. The expansive music that was created belies the solitary recording process. To reproduce that live, he hand-picked a group of musicians who match him in their varied influences: an opera singer who plays guitar (Sara Heaton), a bassist coming from jazz and dub music (Kai Ando), a saxophonist who experiments with synthesizers and electronics (Jeremy Udden), a pop-music loving pianist with one foot in the avant-garde jazz world (Jesse Stacken), and a versatile drummer who has spent time in every setting from conservatory, to Nashville studios, to rock clubs all over NYC (Dave Tedeschi).