Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left (1969), 8/10

Full of beautiful compositions, starting off incredibly strong and rarely ebbing in grandiose allure. Nick Drake of course has one of the most unique and satisfying voices in music, and his debut is stunningly effective. "River Man" has always touched me with a certain magic that seems to intimately flow straight from Nick in a similar way that Pink Moon does particularly well, but the rest of the track list offers a more illustrious atmosphere. The string arrangements can be a divisive topic and some find they act as a crutch or barrier between Drake and the listener, but I find that they enhance the emotional range of each song in a way that is rare for any piece of music, especially folk. Of course he has excelled with and without accompaniment, but Five Leaves shows just how versatile and impactful he can be among complex arrangements and in a very different setting. Some tracks may be a bit more intimate without, but by and large the arrangements add great emotional depth where it is needed. "Man In A Shed" is perhaps the most instantly attainable track that I would recommend, and perhaps one of the most beautiful tracks on the album, but the deeper cuts have earned Five Leaves Left its place among the legendary singer songwriter albums. Nick’s career explores an impressive amount of ground considering its brevity, but his adaptability and inventiveness are apparent, especially in his ability to create such visceral, penetrating compositions with unmatched grace and personal vulnerability. Of course his technical prowess is also worth mentioning, already at an incredibly impressive level considering this was his debut at just 21 years old, showcased perfectly on songs like “Three Hours” and “Cello Song”. A perfect medium between the overreaching Bryter Layter and the cavernous Pink Moon, yet a superbly unique album in its own class.