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In A Safe Place

The Album Leaf
In A Safe Place
(Sub Pop)

Since I last checked in with Mr. Jimmy LaValle, he's been a pretty busy man. Although his former full-time gig as a member of Tristeza seems to have gone by the wayside by default with the group dissolving, he's certainly kept himself busy creating music under The Album Leaf moniker. Since his debut An Orchestrated Rise To Fall, he's released at least one other full length, as well as a slew of EPs. He's also toured with Sigur Ros and has now enlisted some members of that band for help on this, his newest release. Oh yeah, and he's switched labels too.

Having said all of the above, it's not like the overall style of The Album Leaf has changed. In A Safe Place is an atmospheric slab of mostly instrumental keyboard-driven music that basically sounds like a further advanced version of what LaValle has been doing for some time now (both with Tristeza and on his own. As mentioned above, he travelled to Iceland to record this disc, and it's pretty apparent on some tracks. "Window" opens the disc with hazy electronic washes and sounds like something that could be a Sigur Ros b-side while he gets vocal help from Sigur Ros lead singer Jonski Birgisson on the gorgeous piano and electronic quiverings of "Over The Pond."

Elsewhere, the disc sounds more like you'd expect from The Album Leaf, with a step up in quality and songwriting from earlier releases. "Thule" works a pretty rhodes piano groove over a limber rhythmic section while "The Outer Banks" takes things further by mixing strings and micro-beats in alongside the live drumming and layers of organs for a track that swells with life. With all the keyboards (and perhaps becasue of it), one of the standout tracks on the entire release is "Streamside," an absolutely beautiful track that mixes acoustic guitar with accordian and cello (courtesy of Icelands other recent standout export, Múm). Combined with lovely album artwork, this is a release that should really do it for you if you're a fan of any of the aforementioned artists. It seems that perhaps once you're in Iceland, something gets in your blood and helps further the creation of lush and warm music. All I know it's that it's the best release that LaValle has done.

Rating: 7.5