Album Review: Ted Leo – The Hanged Man

By Hunter Bych, Contributor
[Self-Released; 2017]
Rating: 6.5/10

Key Tracks: “Let’s Stay on the Moon”, “Can’t Go Back”, “Moon Out of Phase”

After a few years out of the indie limelight as well as tragedies in his personal life, Ted Leo decided to get back into the music in a bold way: with the help of his fans and Kickstarter, he self-published his newest solo album, The Hanged Man. With no middleman, Ted can create the album he has been dying to create in the past few years without anyone telling him otherwise. Aside from instruments done by some members of his band The Pharmacists, everything is all Ted’s vision, as he aims to pour all his emotional and political frustration into this album.

Ted describes the album as embracing his “political folk-punk singer” tag with many of the songs on The Hanged Man being about issues of the modern world. However, there are no specific callouts to any person or groups, but rather the concepts that house them. Topics like xenophobia, sexism, and racism are seen in these songs but are not apparent until you look beneath the happy-sounding songs that play throughout most of the album. The meaning of the album artwork and title allude to the tarot card of the same name. As interesting as that is, it does not read like that and can get tedious to listen to.

Ted’s vocals always are the same polished and clean vocals which remove some of the more serious lyrics and clash with some of the instruments that play. Songs like “William Weld in the 21st Century” and “You’re Like Me” suffer from this, and cause them to drag. You may begin to start the album and disagree on all of this, but only because of how out of place “Moon Out of Phase” is, compared to the beginning of the album. It is one of the better songs of the album, with the guitar continuously grinding until the end of the song, and the spacey feel. Songs with much more bubbly melodies such as “Used to Believe” and “Can’t Go Back” come in leaving the viewer to wonder what happened. “Moon Out of Phase” could have gone afterward, and it would have fit well. The A-side is composed of nice songs, slowly corrupting into these somber ballads with profound statements. Only later does the listener realize the entire album is like this, with the later songs revealing its true colors.

There are still solid points in The Hanged Man that make it worth a listen. Asides “Moon Out of Phase”, a few other catchy tracks like “Can’t Go Back” and “Run to the City” can make the second round of listening worth it. The real stars of the album are the ballads: “Gray Heavens”, “Make Me Feel Loved” and “Lonsdale Avenue” to name a few. With special mention to the closer “Let’s Stay on the Moon”, a ballad about his unborn daughter lost due to pregnancy complications. It is worth the trip, and it serves as a fantastic finisher.

Overall, while Ted Leo could do more in variations and vocals, it is still a solid album that can be worth a listen. If Ted decided to do another Kickstarter campaign for another solo album, there could be some potential for something better. Until then, there are a few songs worth playing, but the rest is up to the audience.

Listen here:

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