Gold Leaves is a solo project of Grant Olsen, a singer and multi-Instrumentalist from Seattle, Washington. Also known as half of the folk-psych duo Arthur & Yu, Olsen began working on his solo debut in 2007. However, shortly after he started, Olsen's laptop and notes were stolen and he had to start over. Although Olsen writes all of Gold Leaves' songs, this gave him a chance to enlist a number of notable musicians to collaborate on the album: Papercut's Jason Quever (co-producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist), Beach House/Au Revoir Simone's Ben McConnell (percussionist), and backing vocalists Thao Nguyen (Thao & Mirah/Thao with the Get Down Stay Down), Amy Blaschke (Night Canopy/MInus the Bear), and the Moondoggies. The resulting album, The Ornament, is a combination of '60s-influenced folk and pop music, and was released on Hardly Art records in the summer of 2011.
As an artist, you never know when inspiration is going to strike. Mindless chatter overheard in a shopping center can be transformed into a poetic chorus. A tattered picture accidentally dropped on the street can become an album cover. Ambient background noises can be recorded and manipulated into beautiful melodies. When Grant Olsen first started his solo project in 2007, Gold Leaves, he would jot down his ideas in a notebook and make recordings on his laptop in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. Shortly after, his bag containing these items was stolen and never returned—which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave him the opportunity to take time to figure out his musical direction. Prior to recording as Gold Leaves, Olsen was known for being half of the Seattle-based duo Arthur & Yu, whose music is heavily influenced by experimental folk-psych music from the '60s. With Gold Leaves, Olsen's initial ideas ranged from a country album to an homage to classic R&B. These initial ideas soon fizzled after Olsen recruited an all-star roster of collaborators, including co-producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Quever (Papercuts) and percussionist Ben McConnell (Beach House). The end result of Gold Leaves' 2011 debut, The Ornament, isn't a country or classic R&B album, nor is it an Arthur & Yu album under a different monicker. Instead, it's a timeless nine-song collection of warm and melodic folk-pop. Keeping up with the theme of precious metals is the album's opening track, “The Silver Lining.” A vintage organ is the song's heartbeat, always present but never intrusive, melding into layers of acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. This is the song that's perfect for long and reflective moments in a car, when you're driving aimlessly without a destination in mind. Taking a more upbeat approach is the album's title track, which is easily the most immediately accessible of the nine songs here. It's the type of song that sounds instantly familiar, but you can't quite place where or when you might have heard it before—a feeling that remains throughout the entire album. The name Gold Leaves brings to mind that moment right as the sun is setting, when trees are bathed in a brilliant glow of golden light. Likewise, there's a warm and comforting feel to the music that you'll find yourself craving anytime of day or night.