Leave No Trace couldn’t begin on a more appealing note than the stirring drumbeat that kicks off “The Dive.” Bouncing giddily forward like a beach ball skipping along the coastline, “The Dive” distills all that’s great about Fool’s Gold’s party-friendly Afro-pop into four addictive minutes—the snaky guitar, fluid bass line, and insistent drums all but lift any and all butts in the vicinity out of their seats and to the dance floor. The rest of Leave No Trace sounds similarly effervescent, though the actual songs aren’t as memorable. And that’s a significant problem, since the funky rhythms that are Fool’s Gold’s stock and trade are less fresh than they were when the L.A. band released its 2009 self-titled debut.
Fool’s Gold’s chief architect Lewis Pesacov was an early adopter of fusing indie-rock with African influences in the band Foreign Born, and on Leave No Trace he proves once again to be an intoxicating orchestrator of exotic textures. “Street Clothes” deftly infuses P-Funk synths into a discofied groove, and “Tel Aviv” has a subtle Middle Eastern flavor underscoring singer Luke Top’s Hebrew lyrics. But all the sonic details don’t always add up to a strong whole on Leave No Trace.
Reduced to a five-piece after brandishing an expansive lineup of a dozen players on the first album, Fool’s Gold has set out to make Leave No Trace a pop-rock record on par with recent efforts from like-minded acts like Vampire Weekend and Local Natives. But while it’s a more compact record than Fool’s Gold, it’s not catchier. By the album’s second half, tracks like “Mammal” and “Bark And Bite” start to blur together into an indistinct mash of bland, good-time background music. Leave No Trace is an enjoyable time, but the party peaks early.