Call it art imitating life. Ten years after Jimmy LaValle released his first solo album, which he created alone in his bedroom, he has married his high school sweetheart and for the first time pulled a full band into the studio to help him create the 2010 release, A Chorus of Storytellers. LaValle is no longer alone in his bedroom.
A Chorus of Storytellers marks the first decade of The Album Leaf, an American musical project founded in San Diego, California in 1998. Jimmy LaValle may be best described as “a crafter of impeccable sonic imagery.” A classically trained musician who plays just about every instrument imaginable, LaValle constructs post-rock songs that “fuel beautiful melancholy, the kind of songs you turn to when you want to wallow in your feelings.”
After releasing Into The Blue Again, LaValle took several years off before returning to the studio. This was due to a combination of events in his personal life and the need to “cleanse his musical palate” while discerning what was next for The Album Leaf. The cleanse came through touring with Magnetic Morning, the indie rock super group which includes Sam Fogarino from Interpol and Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin.
The album title, A Chorus of Storytellers, wonderfully describes his new approach to The Album Leaf. “I wanted to name it according to what happened with the whole process,” LaValle explained. This new album, while still flowing largely out of LaValle’s creative genius, is a communal effort. Think of him as more of an orchestra conductor than a controlling front man. LaValle is learning the value of shared vision and purpose.
Like The Album Leaf’s previous records, Storytellers is comprised of mostly instrumental tracks. Electronic beats, piano, strings, synthesizer, guitar and percussion are folded together to create layers of sound that are almost hypnotizing. The atmospheric sounds of The Album Leaf find their real value by lending meaning to the surroundings of the listener. Like a good soundtrack for a film, the songs enhance the beauty of the things with which they share space. The wind blowing through the trees outside your window, a child walking with her mother, snow melting to create a temporary stream down the sidewalk—the songs slow us down just long enough to help us see. They are what Relevant Magazine recently referred to as “worship music…that’s not ‘worship music.’” While stylistically quite different from Sigur Ros, The Album Leaf has a similar ability to “give glory a sound,” even if this is not the original intent of the band. Songs like these have the power to open our eyes to realities we might have otherwise missed. On April 27, The Album Leaf will tap into glory at the Ladies Literary Club.
- Eric Kuiper