If an emo band makes a record nearly devoid of histrionic screams and endless shredding, is it still emo? That's the riddle at the heart of Leo's Nightmares. The quartet certainly fits the profile of the oft-maligned genre: The album's back photo finds the band wearing tight jeans, sporting jet-black hair and looking slightly brooding. And certainly the instrumental "Intro" sets the mood, with its simple, heavy guitar chords and a thudding bass line. (Aside: Why rock bands need intros to their albums is a mystery in itself.) But Leo shifts gears with "Na Na," which begins with the chugging riffs of stoner rock before turning into something approaching revved-up shoegaze. Lead singer Ian Eddy has enough of a vocal range to sing low-key verses and ceiling-scraping choruses "So We Forget" uses this formula to great effect, while "Sommerset" would be more in place at an open-mic night, with Eddy mimicking the gentle, octave-jumping style of Jeff Buckley. Now, all of this isn't to say that there are no dark, cathartic, heart-on-sleeve moments on Nightmares. But maybe it comes down to a question of perception; don't let those emo signifiers blind your eyes to the other forces at play on this album. Christian Schaeffer
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