Though a standard length (40-minute) CD, Shadow of Leaves has just three songs, dominated by the 29-minute title track. Putting a 29-minute track of any kind onto a record comprised -- at least nominally speaking -- of songs with vocals could be taken as one of the least accessible moves an artist could make. If you're buying -- nay, even listening to -- a Jandek album in the first place, however, you've already crossed the threshold that filters out 99.9 percent of the listening population, who would find anything recorded by the singer/songwriter wholly inaccessible. Even by Jandek's demanding standards, though, "Shadow of Leaves" is tough going, suffused with a twanging, bottom-heavy sound. When those twangs kick in right at the start of the CD, it's rather like listening to those parts of a jazz band's set where all the instruments drop out, save low-plucked bass notes, but with a difference. For this is like hearing a jazz bass solo from hell, pumping away in a manner that crosses from the merely dour to the tortured, overlaid with the man's usual tormented, just-tore-the-top-off-of-my-head ramblings. Once in a while, striking or at least interesting phrases emerge -- "it's 100 degrees, and I'm freezing on Mount Everest" he moans at one point during "Shadow of Leaves," for example -- that would no doubt find critical accolades were they somehow fit into the songs of popular alternative rock bands. Two other songs of relatively brief (five- and six- minute) length close the CD, both with a similar accent on subterranean bass-note rumbles, and when the man announces at the beginning of "I Give You Me" that "I don't want to go to Las Vegas, I like it better in Carson City," he does so with utterly convincing dread. That number turns out, of all things, to be a love song of abject devotion (though what romantic partner would be receptive to such an ode?), and there's even a slight resemblance to the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" in the way he phrases a line or two. Yet in all, with this 2004 album, Jandek continues to be an artist much more fun to write about than to actually listen to.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger