THE ALBUM LEAF – A Chorus of Storytellers (2010)

Though they like working with Birgir Jón from Sigur Rós (A Chorus of Storytellers was mixed at Sundlaugin, the former-swimming-pool-turned-studio maintained by Birgir; past efforts of The Album Leaf have been recorded there, as well), The Album Leaf don’t have that much in common with Sigur Rós. I say this even though the first time I actually heard The Album Leaf was on a Sigur Rós radio last.fm station. But I digress. Jimmy LaValle (principal songwriter for The Album Leaf) isn’t as focused on texture and timbre as his Icelandic post-rock friends are. He’s more concerned with taking the big ideas of post-rock and turning them into something tangible, without sacrificing the emotional impact in the process. And when he lands this pirouette (as he did on 2004’s excellent Into The Blue Again), he’s among the best post-rock has to offer.

Whether he’s taking the fury of This Will Destroy You down a few decibels on Within Dreams or combining Efrim Menuck minimalism with Amiina’s grandeur on Until The Last, LaVelle doesn’t misstep on the album’s instrumentals. The few problems on this album lay in the songs with vocals. While it’s not the case on all of the songs, the vocals are, more often than not, an unfortunate distraction. The repetition of the phrase “find a way to fall” on Falling From The Sun, for example, gets tiresome awfully quick. And on There Is A Wind, the vocals only help to illustrate the stasis that the song itself get stuck in halfway through. Still, these are minor offenses. If they bother you at all, it’s nothing the “next track” button on your iPod can’t fix.

Post-rock is all about evocative musical imagery than perhaps anything else. And there’s a number of different ways you can be evocative in your music: you can turn it into a texture-timbre playground (Tortoise), you can forego all subtlety and swing for the emotional fences (Mono). You can play with dynamic range a whole lot (Mogwai). You can make punk rock for a dying world (A Silver Mt. Zion). Or you can self-sabotage your own work and hope that it doesn’t come off as arty posturing (Fly Pan Am – and it doesn’t). Despite the occasional vocal faltering, The Album Leaf are delightfully evocative here. And by this measure, A Chorus of Storytellers is a success.

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One Response to “THE ALBUM LEAF – A Chorus of Storytellers (2010)”

  1. […] and the other two are reinterpretations of two songs that are on the band’s latest release, A Chorus of Storytellers (an album for me that is still frustratingly uneven). The title track, There Is A Wind, is an […]

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