The Album Leaf, A Chorus of Storytellers

The Album Leaf, A Chorus of Storytellers

Jimmy LaValle’s fifth solo album, A Chorus of Storytellers, is a calm trip into his soul. This CD will soothe you, but not in a reassuring, uplifting kind of way. LaValle started in the ’90s, and since then has appeared on The OC soundtrack, recorded splits and 7″s with Her Space Holiday, Bright Eyes, and other various Saddle Creek bands. His current live Album Leaf players are Matthew Resovich, James McAlister, Brad Lee, and Gram LeBron, who help him attain a full sound on stage, but he has had many others in the past.

A Chorus of Storytellers consists of eleven tracks. Only “There is a Wind,” “Falling From the Sun,” “We Are,” and “Almost There” have words. The first starts, “running so far ahead just to get back to the end,” giving an impression of an endless cycle or catch-22 situation, which the music video captures quite well. In fact, there are several mentions of “the end” in LaValle’s few lyrical points on the CD, like on “Falling From the Sun,” where he states, “We can’t see the start / We can’t hide the end.”

Further examples of his cycle: “Walking in circles,” from “Almost There,” and “We find ourselves here again,” from “We Are.” Perhaps he himself is stuck in a hamster wheel? Either that, or LaValle aims to capture a somber, repetitive theme with his mellow music, to a degree that I have to stop and wonder if he can write about any other topic. The rest of the tracks are completely instrumental, looping the same melodies again and again.

Violins, synthesizers, organs, and a Rhodes piano add to the standard instruments, but honestly, they don’t create too pleasing of an atmosphere to uphold the songs without vocals. They play together, but everything carries on in a somewhat monotonous way. It flows but also drones, in that there isn’t enough fluctuation in sound or change to keep it interesting.

With the song lengths achieved here, LaValle could have written these tunes a bit more dramatically, to lead to a climax of sorts, but that isn’t what he’s going for. No one song stands out more than another, but I do prefer the ones with lyrics because they leave a larger imprint on the brain. There isn’t a rising or falling point, just a consistent plateau of distant, dreamy-sounding music. Due to this, I imagine it’s good music to sleep to, but definitely not for driving.

I want to compare this guy to Sufjan Stevens, but he doesn’t do everything himself, or compare his band to The Polysymphonic Spree, but they aren’t a large group of people in crazy costumes. This isn’t epic enough for either association, leaving me stuck. If you want to figure him out for yourself, The Album Leaf is opening for TS59 and Owl City, but not anywhere near us.

(Sub Pop Records -- 2013 4th Ave., 3rd Floor, Seattle, WA. 98121; http://www.subpop.com/; The Album Leaf -- http://www.thealbumleaf.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, July 22nd, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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