Album: The Family Tree: The Leaves by Radical Face
Released: March 25th, 2016
Radical Face is the stage name of musician Ben Cooper who released his first official studio album in 2007. His music is noted for the use of acoustic guitar, soft and layered vocals, and storytelling within the lyrics. He has released four studio albums, all of which carry concepts within their songs and the last three are part of a single story called The Family Tree. An independent artist, Radical Face primarily tours outside of the United States due to the popularity of his music in the rest of the world; however, he does play some isolated shows and went on a more extensive North American tour in 2013. His most recent work has been on a film score, another full-length record, and a series of EPs.
**Spoiler Alert – Story Details Ahead**
The Story and the Songs:
The final entry in the Family Tree series, The Leaves brings the Northcotes and their descendants into the 20th century. “Secrets (Cellar Door)” shows a twist of fate as Abigail’s granddaughter, Bella, moves in next to Judah’s grandson. They learn of each other’s abilities and become friends knowing that they both can contact the dead. Bailey, from “Summer Skeletons” on The Branches, comes back into the story in “Rivers in the Dust.” Bailey and his best friend’s widow travel to California together to escape the dust bowl with each coming to love the other despite a rocky start. This song features a drum set and sampling, bringing even more contemporary sounds to fit the time-frame compared to the earlier albums. “Everything Costs” is one of two autobiographical song in the Family Tree series. Originally meant to be from the point of view of a character, it is from Cooper’s perspective after some personal family issues came into play while making the album. “Midnight” is an eerie tale about a young boy dying of leukemia who seeks a presence in the local woods. The presence is revealed to be Annabel, who is able to heal the boy by sucking the cancer out of him; she has lived in the woods alone and now must find another place to dwell. “The Ship in Port” introduces a new character, Richard Applegate, who returns from war to find himself at odds with the people he left. He struggles to do what is expected of him and this more upbeat song ends on a happier note with more hope.
“Photograph” is another instrumental song, much like “Gray Skies”, that interludes between songs. “Third Family Portrait” is about another character, Genevieve, settling down in Colorado after trying to head west. The narrator of the song, her son Wyatt, describes leaving his home to finish the journey his parents started. “The Road to Nowhere” returns to the horrible factory of “The Gilded Hand,” but with a twist. Patrick, the bastard son of Abel, is a sleepwalker like his distant relative, Abigail, and awakes one day with blood on his hands finding he has freed the other children. “Old Gemini” connects the early stories to the contemporary time of the tale; a woman buys the abandoned home of Victoria Northcote (all the way back from “Severus and Stone”) and discovers Severus’s diary while digging in the garden. She is struck by the intelligence of the child and how aware he was of his own mortality. “Bad Blood” is the final song of the series and, fittingly, is about Cooper himself.
This last entry in the Family Tree series took a step away from the previous two since personal issues and constraints in Cooper’s life would come into play in the final album; though the first two albums are rooted in reality, there is still a heavily fictional element that is lessened in the last album. Radical Face’s honesty and integrity in songwriting comes to fruition as the story of the Northcotes comes to an end, as does the seven year project. This album isn’t some grand finale, it doesn’t make itself shine above the others; rather, it takes the tone of its predecessors and carries it to a satisfying end.
For those wanting to read more detail about the story, Cooper created a guidebook that tells the stories behind the songs and can be accessed here.
Please enjoy some song recommendations, a song from the album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!
Song recommendations: “Rivers in the Dust” , “Midnight” , “Third Family Portrait” , “The Road to Nowhere”
Previously: The Family Tree: The Branches