Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Critics will go Nuts for The Album Leaf

This one has critical darling written all over it. THE ALBUM LEAF are set to release their 5th formal album later this year entitled "A Chorus of Storytellers" and it is a thing of sonic beauty. There are the obvious comparisons to be made to the equally sonically adventurous acts like SIGUR ROS, EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, and MOGWAI; all of whom fly in the space where songs have no real choruses or often are devoid of vocals entirely. The Album Leaf's album is not as abstract as some of those others. The songs are warmer and have an intimacy that comes with a single minded vision. James LaValle, principal architect of the band, has flirted with this type of sonic majesty before but not until now has he finally stepped into his own. The best comparison I can make is when WILCO released "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel". There was just no way to anticipate this sort of artistic leap.

"A Chorus of Storytellers" is a collection that builds slowly. On first listen it is not unexpected to be a bit underwhelmed. The slight sonic hum of "Perro" folds into the cascading instrumentation of "Blank Pages". The centerpiece of the record, and the de facto single since it is the rare vocal track, is the sublime "Falling From The Sun". When LaValle does add vocals, whether here or the equally mesmerizing "There Is A Wind" the band reminds me of vintage THE BETA BAND. Whether it is the distant pops and beeps (a la Radiohead) on "Within Dreams" or drum and piano driven "Stand Still, LaValle has tapped into a whole new musical palette with which to express his ideas.

It's easy to get lost in hyperbole when first listening to a record. Time tends to dull our senses to a sound and we move onto something else. That would be folly when concerning this record. It's a record that needs your time and attention to truly appreciate. I am not sure I have absorbed it enough to give it it's full due. On my fourth full listen through I still find new ways to enjoy it and new moods hidden within the subtle chord changes and synth lines. It's rare that a record can sound both big and small at the same time. This is that sort of record. Quite simply, it is a gorgeous piece of music worth your ears.

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