1. Contre Le Sexisme 3:55
2. Sunday 4:52
3. Female Mechanic Now On Duty 7:43
4. Wildflower Soul 9:04
5. Hoarfrost 5:01
6. French Tickler 4:52
7. Hits Of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsberg) 11:05
8. Karen Koltrane 9:20
9. The Ineffable Me 5:21
10. Snare, Girl 6:38
11. Heather Angel 6:09


"A Thousand Leaves" is Sonic Youth's twelfth album, following the release of three EPs on their own newly established record label. For the first time, SY debuted their new material live in a largely instrumental shape, sprawling compositions allowed to naturally progress with each performance. With their own studio capable of producing more than just demos, they were now able to record virtually anything they wanted, and they enlisted former "Confusion is Sex" producer Wharton Tiers to assist with the sessions, paving the way for the abundance of material released by the band in 1997 and 1998.


Having finished construction of their own sonic studio, Echo Canyon, in 1996, the band was free to record new material as they pleased. Their first major project was composing the score for Richard Linklater's film "Suburbia" (their first such endeavor since "Made in USA" in 1986). SY contribute 3 songs to the soundtrack, including "Bee-Bee's Song" "Tabla in Suburbia" & an early, extended version of "Sunday" (which would later appear, rerecorded and shortened, on "A Thousand Leaves"). After 2 years of extensive touring for "Washing Machine", SY were in no hurry to return to the road -- instead they focused on composing new material, but with the opportunity to record every note as it was written and let the songs grow naturally, the new pieces were slowly perfected and rather than immediately construct proper vocal lines for each piece to present it as a "song", the bulk of the songs remained instrumental until very late in the game. At a Thurston solo gig in NYC on March 1st, 1997, the full band showed up unannounced and debuted 3 of these new instrumentals: "Proud Marie" "Wildflower" & "Anagrama". They continued working on recordings, bringing in longtime acquaintance and "Confusion is Sex" producer Wharton Tiers, and announced the launch of their own record label -- Sonic Youth Recordings, aka SYR.

Running their own label gave Sonic Youth the opportunity to release their new recordings without having to worry about Geffen rejecting 9-minute instrumentals and improvisations, all while continuing to perfect the material that was destined for the next DGC LP. The first SYR release featured the instrumental "Anagrama", the brief "Improvisation Ajoutee", the jazzy jam "Tremens", and the corrosive speaker assault "Mieux: De Corrosion". Sonic Youth made another live appearance on June 5th, debuting "Stil" "Static Overview" and "Hits of Sunshine" -- the latter song was the only one with vocals. Two days later they played the Tibetan Freedom Concert once again ("Wildflower" from this set appeared on the official 3CD TFC compilation). They also played all 6 songs in studio for the "Sessions at West 54th St." PBS show, which chose to air "Proud Marie" "Stil" and "Static Overview". They did one more gig in June, then took a two month break to continue work on the SYR releases and the new album. At the end of August they did 2 west coast shows in Portland and Seattle, performing the same set both nights -- they added "Sunday" from the Suburbia soundtrack, as well as a brand new tune later to be called "Heather Angel" (Kim's vocals were already in place).

Soon the second SYR disc was released, with "Slaapkamers Met Slagroom" (an 18-minute instrumental that starts off as "Proud Marie" and dissolves into a wild jam), "Stil" (this and "Anagrama" were the only SYR pieces that would remain instrumental for their subsequent live performances), and the quirky "Herinneringen", featuring 3 tracks of Kim's vocals. The band did another gig -- without Lee, who was on tour with William Hooker in Europe at the time -- for the release party of Neil Young's film "Year of the Horse" in October. I'm not sure exactly what they played -- certainly the existing set but possibly three new songs, which otherwise made their first known performance at the infamous Avery Fisher gig on November 21st. These new songs were "Karen Koltrane" "Woodland Ode" and "French Tickler". In the program handed out to those in attendance, "Stil" was titled "Hush". This would be the new material's final performance as instrumentals -- the band finished recording the new songs in late '97 and early '98, and began working on providing vocal lines for the six instrumentals destined for the album. "Wildflower" became "Wildflower Soul". "Proud Marie" became "The Ineffable Me". "Woodland Ode" became "Hoarfrost". "Static Overview" became "Female Mechanic Now On Duty". "Stil" was reworked as a lullaby titled "Snare", later "Snare, Girl". A studio improvisation was trimmed down to become "Contre Le Sexisme". In early '98 the third SYR release was prepared, this time featuring not sketchy versions of evolving pieces but 3 improvisations, 2 exceeding 20 minutes, with guest performer Jim O'Rourke, who 2 years later would become the fifth member of Sonic Youth.

On March 19th, 1998 the songs were debuted with vocals in Austin, TX. In mid-late April, SY played 4 northeast college/university gigs, playing everything from the album except for "Snare, Girl" which was always represented live by its instrumental counterpart "Stil", and "Contre Le Sexisme", which was never reproduced live. "Anagrama" remained in the set. Geffen did not handle the double-vinyl release, instead Smells Like.../My So-Called Records issued it in advance, sending orders in out in late April. When the CD was released on May 12th, Sonic Youth were 6 dates into their North American "A Thousand Leaves" tour -- the first tour since 1988's "Daydream Nation" tour to exclusively feature new material, aside from early favorite "Death Valley '69", performed as an encore at every show. Otherwise, the set lists remained static throughout the tour, switching the order around slightly but never straying from the 9 album tracks, "Anagrama" "Stil" & "Death Valley". On May 22nd, in Seattle, WA, the band added one more "oldie" to the set, unearthing "Shadow of a Doubt" for the first time since 1986. From this point on, the main set would close with "Heather Angel", and the encore was "Stil" "Shadow of a Doubt" and "Death Valley '69", followed by a short noisy improvisation. The shows were truly incredible -- fans hoping for "Teenage Riot" or "Dirty Boots" were disappointed, but those who came open-minded got to hear "A Thousand Leaves" the way it deserved to be heard, live and loud. Frankly, I think the tour exceeded the album in performance quality -- while the album itself sounded like instrumentals w/ vocals layered overtop, the tour versions of these same songs sounded perfectly natural, cohesive, and alive: the ultimate display of sonic energy.

Following the US tour, SY made their third appearance at the Tibetan Freedom Concert, and their fourth appearance on David Letterman's show, performing the first and only single from the album: "Sunday". The single was released in July, with a brutal radio edit, a rough cover of the obscure Nirvana b-side "Moist Vagina", and a preview of the forthcoming "Silver Session" release, "Silver Panties" (recorded during the vocal overdub sessions for "A Thousand Leaves"). The European tour commenced in June and finished in August, showing no set list alterations (except where the sets needed shortening due to festival requirements). SY returned to Australia, New Zealand, and Japan once again in October. This was the last tour of 1998, and technically the last tour to specifically support "A Thousand Leaves" -- on their next tour, in February 1999, Sonic Youth abandoned the previous year's set list and once again began to perform old material, including songs from each of their prior albums. Around this time, they began work on the 4th SYR release, a collection of interpretations of some of the band's favorite compositions of the 20th century, recording with William Winant, Jim O'Rourke, Takehisa Kosugi, Christian Wolff, Christian Marclay, and Wharton Tiers. Coco even makes another vocal appearance, following up her wails on Mike Watt's "Ballhog or Tug Boat?" album. On April 1st they performed a special SYR4 show (long before its release, and long before the album was even fully finished) in NYC. They did a gig on June 13th in NYC, premiering 2 brand new instrumentals, one piece from SYR4, a lengthy version of "Expressway", and an encore of SYR2 track "Stil".

In early July they headed to the west coast for 5 gigs, and between the first show in Berkeley, CA and the second show in Irvine, a Ryder truck containing all of the band's touring equipment was stolen from outside their hotel in the middle of the night, including some guitars that had been in the band's collection since virtually day 1 (the "Drifter" guitar used exclusively by Thurston on "Eric's Trip" was used as far back as 1983, and its loss rendered them unable to perform Lee's Daydream rocker). Down but not out, SY piled together some new/borrowed instruments to fulfill the remainder of the tour, and returned home to NYC, plucking long forgotten gear from their studio to work on new material which would end up on "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". For further information on the stolen gear, please visit the Gear Guide, linked in the frame above.


The double-vinyl and the CD have the same cover, Marnie Weber's "Hamster Girl" photo. The back covers are the same too, aside from the text on the card in the righthand photo -- the vinyl has the bulk of the album credits on the card, the CD version just has the copyright info. Both have the track list in the lefthand frame. Unlike previous double-vinyl versions of "Daydream Nation" and "Washing Machine", there's no gatefold -- both 12"s are in plain white sleeves in the jacket, along with a 2-sided insert. One side features a large black and white image of four children posing next to a crude teepee construction, the other side features a lyric sheet for the entire album -- like "Experimental Jet Set", the vinyl release includes lyrics not present in the CD liner. The CD insert folds out to a 6-page, 2x3 double-sided sheet, featuring the album cover + various pictures of Kim hiding behind leaves on the colour side, and the same teepee/children image w/ a track list, credits, thanks, etc on the reverse, black and white side. The jewel case's tray is clear to reveal more art in the tray liner.


Produced by Wharton Tiers and Sonic Youth 1997/98 NYC.
Add'l production by Don Fleming

Mastered by Greg Calbi, Masterdisk NYC "Hamster Girl" cover art by Marnie Weber Courtesy of Jessica Fredericks Gallery NYC Collecion of Randall Kelley Photography and lettering Mark Borthwick Art direction by Frank Olinsky All compositions by Sonic Youth Thurston Moore - gtr / vx Kim Gordon gtr / bs / vx Lee Ranaldo gtr / vx Steve Shelley drms

Published by Sonik Tooth, BMI

Thankx to John Silva, Shauna O'Brien and Gold Mountain Ent., Ray Farrell, and DGC, Mark Kates, Bob Lawton, Olivia Cottrell, Richard Grabel, Terry Pearson, Peter Van Der Velde, Luc Suer, Jim Vincent, Nic Close, Susanne Sasic, Carlos Van Hijfte, Don Fleming, Byron Coley, Lynn Walsh, Amanda Linn and O.S.B, Maurice Menares, Chris Habib, Tannis Root, Robin Eisgrau, Bill Ryan, Jim Shaw, Jennifer Kerwin, Paul Johnson, Perry Serpa, Steve Martin, Leyla Turkkan.


From FILTER magazine 2006 SY discography self-commentary:

"recorded in 1997/98 this was our first full-length lp recorded at our home studio on murray st.(rip) . alternate recordings of some of these songs appeared on the SYR2 cd/lp - which was recorded by longtime band-associate wharton tiers. 'Sunday' was originally recorded for Richard Linklater's film 'Suburbia' and then re-recorded for this LP. stand-out tracks or personal faves are : contre le sexism, hoarfrost, hits of sunshine + snare, girl which almost didn't make the final cut. ss"

"1998--our 12th or 14th album? Our first in our own newly-built Echo Canyon studios, leaping further into noise/voids first explored on Washing Machine. Winding, twisty songs, hymns, with a corrosive 3 gtrs'n'drums attack on many trax. Ginsberg paen 'Hits of Sunshine' presages future NYCG&F mind. - LR"

The DGC release was originally planned for April 21st, 1998, and was pushed back twice -- to May 5th, then to May 12th, when the CD/cassette came out. The My So-Called Records vinyl release was sent to those who pre-ordered via Smells Like... in late April. Curiously, the vinyl release bears the following info on the back cover:

my so-called records #03
a division of SYR

The spine, however, reads:

my so-called records            sonic youth    a thousand leaves            syr #03

The insert also reads "syr #03". Obviously this isn't SYR3, but it's interesting none-the-less.

The album has several proposed working titles, including "Hits of Sunshine" and "Ham Radio" (which Thurston joked would have cover art depicting a nude Sally Kirkland riding a hog). The "Ham Radio" motif sustained to SYR3's "Radio-Amatoroj".

The text "Mille Feuille", crossed out on the face of the disc and also included as a lyric in "French Tickler", is the name of a french pastry, and translates to "A Thousand Leaves" in english.

Once again Kim plays primarily guitar, the only tracks w/ bass are "Sunday" and "Hits Of Sunshine"

Lee and Thurston's guitars are separated in the mix again, though not as extremely as on "Dirty" and "Jet Set" -- on some songs, Lee is isolated in the left speaker and Thurston is restricted to the right.

Not all of the album was recorded in Echo Canyon -- the second half of "Female Mechanic Now On Duty" actually comes straight from the "Sessions @ West 54th St." broadcast, with vocals overdubbed.

The album's preliminary track listing was vastly different than the final release:

The Ineffable Me
Hits of Sunshine
Heather Angel
Contre le Sexism
Female Mechanic Now on Duty
Karen Koltrane
French Tickler
Woodland Ode

The "evol.org/music.html" URL listed in the liners was formerly the largest (and oldest?) Sonic Youth site on the internet, run by michael mccullough -- michael (aka moik) vanished at some point around the release of the album, and his site followed suit... those who remember it know it was a colossal source of information, and it is sorely missed.

Read Byron Coley's one-sheet for the album HERE. Thurston's notes can be read HERE.

For more information on songs (including lyrics, who played what, when the songs were first and last performed, and other trivia), please visit the Song Database.


  • ANAGRAMA -- the first SYR release.
  • SLAAPKAMERS MET SLAGROOM -- the second SYR release.
  • INVITO AL CIELO -- the third SYR release.
  • SUNDAY -- the first and only single from "A Thousand Leaves".
  • SILVER SESSION -- recorded during the vocal sessions for "A Thousand Leaves".



    My So-Called Records
    SYR #03
    NOTES: 2x12" vinyl released via SLR several weeks before CD release.
    GEF 25203(2)
    NOTES: 2x12" release 'Made in the EU'
    NOTES: 2x12" Japanese release
    NOTES: 2x12" reissue.
    Newly remastered from original stereo analog masters
    Includes download card for 320mbps MP4 AAC files

    NOTES: advance promo CD
    NOTES: CD release.
    DGCSD 25203
    NOTES: CD release.
    NOTES: PROMO CD release.
    GED 25203 425 203-2
    NOTES: CD release.
    GEFD 25203
    NOTES: CD release.
    MVCF 24028
    NOTES: CD release.

    NOTES: cassette release.


  • Scans of the cassette would be appreciated.
  • Please write me w/ anything that's missing!

  • cd insert panels 1 + 2 (cover)

    cd insert panels 3 + 4

    cd insert panels 5 + 6

    cd insert reverse


    cd back

    tray liner

    part of vinyl back (w/ syr/mscr info)

    vinyl insert (lyric side)

    vinyl label side 1

    vinyl label side 2

    vinyl label side 3

    vinyl label side 4

    CD w/ feature sticker

    advance promo CD

    cassette cover (poland)

    cassette liner (poland)

    euro cd back

    promo disc

    promo sleeve

    malaysian cassette