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.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger