Scotty Leitch is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, sound engineer and a mainstay of Philadelphia’s indie and DIY scene. Over the years he’s been producing his own material under the moniker Shelf Life. His 13th release Flawless showcases his whole skillset, offering an impressive collection of genres and new additions to his already impressive repertoire. His country and folk-infused indie pop is still the centerpiece of his sound, but this latest offering sees him delving into dream pop and electronica. Yet even as the tracks in Flawless shift constantly between styles, the transition between each one feels seamless. All of this thanks to his great touch for creating a laid-back and pleasant experience for the listener, regardless of his choice of instrumentation.
Each song is short and simple, yet packed with full of nuances and insights to his personality. “Sip” has warm acoustic guitar riffs, great hooks and a soothing rhythm, yet the lyrics paint a strained relationship that’s falling off the edge. “Seance” has airy and light vocals with a morbid undertone swimming calmly beneath the surface. Leitch’s lyrics in these folky tunes are esoteric enough to be intriguing, yet the music does a great job of clouding up the darkness it evokes.
He dives into electronica on “More Than Ever” with a full package of drum pads, synths and a vocoder. This change could have seemed jarring on paper, but Leitch’s consistent use of soft tones and gentle melodies makes the experience much smoother. On “Trainsurf”, this evolves into a dark, pulsing new wave, echoing the eerie themes in earlier tracks. “Desire” is a mix of both, this time a digital beat accompanied by funky guitar riffs. But by far the best track in this record is the title track, where synths, drum pads and vocals are elevated into a floating, dream pop state. With a melody that’s as graceful as a ballerina and lush instruments all around, the line : “Flawless and free as I want it to be” never felt so true.
Flawless is so well crafted that it’s easy to forget it’s a solo DIY project. One of the later tracks “Rhcplol” is a cheeky song with 90’s references and a few digs at Antony Keidis — all played for humor — yet it’s still so wonderfully produced that it doesn’t feel like a throwaway or an interlude.
Prolific, multi-talented and entertaining. Shelf Life is an indie gem, and a Flawless one at that.