Rhythm & Views

The Album Leaf

Jimmy LaValle's mostly instrumental project The Album Leaf makes the kind of music that sounds simultaneously modern and primordial--intensely familiar, yet startlingly new, earthy and ethereal. It's perfect, then, that LaValle recorded Into the Blue Again, The Album Leaf's fourth full-length, in a modernized barn, and then went to Iceland for mixing--if you need a geographic image for what this sounds like, a modernized barn and Iceland just about covers it.

Into the Blue Again is brighter, tighter and mightier than its older siblings, and this is partly due to the second song, "Always for You," where LaValle sings in his overdubbed nonsingy voice, "In the air I flew, through the clouds I fell," as layers of beats clap with each other, and that warm, horn-blended, signature Album Leaf sound picks up and holds notes of the vocal melody. Everything that is beautiful about The Album Leaf comes together in this song, and the euphoria sustains with "Shine," goes a little dark with "Writings on the Wall" and "Red-Eye," recharges the bliss for "See in You" and "Into the Sea" and then peaks with "Wherever I Go."

From there, the album slows; the strings on "Wishful Thinking" open flowers, walk through creeks and lay on rocks and stare at the sun, and then the microbeats and electronic beeps on "Broken Arrow" stretch their gaze even further. The strings come back in to ground things, but then that Rhodes sound rises, and all else falls away--time, place, everything, the blue we're into again, at once clear and cloudy, warm and cool.

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