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Album Leaf - A Chorus of Storytellers

  by Robert Fisher

published: 7 / 1 / 2010

Album Leaf - A Chorus of Storytellers
Label: Sub Pop
Format: CD


Expansive-sounding pop on first rate fifth album from Californian act The Album Leaf, the first to be recorded as a group rather than as a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Jimmy LaValle

As once before with a review of a different artist in this magazine, I will confess to not being familiar with The Album Leaf before this record. I will try not to make it a habit but it is part of the pleasure in writing reviews to be introduced to the unfamiliar. Maybe it is part of the pleasure in reading reviews as well. So, I am grateful that there is a wealth of information on the internet as well as the single sheet of paper that comes along from the record company that will inform us of the back story. A few facts that the folks at Sub Pop want you and I to know (assuming you know as little as I and that is a big assumption) about this band include a ten year history, a primary songwriter in Jimmy LaValle, origins in improvised home recording and subsequent mastery of the studio as well as the existence of a live version of the band that has played in many impressive and difficult places to find oneself in like the Hollywood Bowl with the Incredible String Band, Red Rocks Amphitheatre and festival performances including Seattle International Film Festival where they performed a live score while the festival screened the 1927 Silent Film 'Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans' by F.W. Murnau that was made in America and won an Academy Award at the first award ceremony in 1929. Beyond establishing the proper bona fides, all of the afore mentioned information is aimed at telling us where this very cinematic, sculptural and well recorded album comes from, with the addition of one other small fact…this seems to be the first of the Album Leaf recordings done as a band instead of multi-tracking multi-instrumentalist LaValle. Where some bands use instrumental passages to connect pop songs, The Album Leaf allows pop songs to act as bridges for expansive instrumentals with more than half the songs falling into the instrumental category. In the recording process, much attention has been placed on the sonic elements of the percussion. Beats are crisp and articulate almost to an extreme. Elegant linear lines of strings, guitars and horns shine through out the mixes. When they happen, vocals are chilled, crisp and layered with harmonies as the Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins and Sigur Ros’ Jon Birgisson encourage LaValle by adding their voices to his. It is almost always too easy and slightly dangerous to call music that isn’t composed for films as cinematic but in this case it seems to apply in the best sense; instrumentals like 'Until the Last', 'Within Dreams' and 'Perro' that allow the mind to wander landscapes and draw from personal image banks to establish place and time. And, when the vocals are added for 'Falling from the Sun', Almost There, There is a Wind and 'We Are', the lyrics bring with them an element of human context that expands the instrumental horizons. Jimmy LaValle along with band mates Matthew Resovich, Timothy Reece, Drew Andrews, Luis Hermosillo and recording engineers Ryan Hadlock (Bear Creek Studio) and mixing engineer Jon Birgisson exercise great restraint and allow the tracks On 'A Chorus of Storytellers' to develop slowly. There is great attention to detail, beauty, joy and clarity in these eleven tracks. This is skilful music. Architectural music. As I said at the beginning, there aren’t any other The Album Leaf recordings in my collection. A fact that a trip to the record store will rectify.

Track Listing:-
1 Perro
2 Blank Pages
3 There Is A Wind
4 Within Dreams
5 Falling From The Sun
6 Stand Still
7 Summer Fog
8 Until The Last
9 We Are
10 Almost There
11 Tied Knots

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Sparse but haunting latest album from the Album Leaf, the project of singer-songwriter Jimmy LaValle
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