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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Album Leaf
In a Safe Place
Sub Pop Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Jimmy LaValle has been hanging out with Sigur Ros. A misplaced comparison is one thing, but here it's simply inescapable - not that it's at all a bad thing.

First of all, In a Safe Place was recorded at the studio that Sigur Ros made a name for in Mosfellsbaer, Iceland, a place that God seemingly created for minimalist post-rock. Secondly, multiple members of Sigur Ros feature on this record, making their presence felt considerably with their icy yet comforting ambient tones.

Despite the subtle charisma brought by Sigur Ros (as well as such luminaries as Múm and The Black Heart Procession), it must be remembered that this is a record by The Album Leaf, and that fact alone deserves anyone's attention - and right now I'm so relaxed I could shit myself.

LaValle's previous solo outings have for the most part been mish-mashes of bare acoustic tracks, Rhodes-driven rock songs and distant scapes of sound. In a Safe Place, although suitably varied, seeks to merge existing remnants of The Album Leaf, forming a sound that is more refined and, in many senses, more mature. The Rhodes piano adopts a prominent role in many of the songs, with percussion ranging from scattered electronic beats to formidable live drumming; a versatile musician LaValle certainly is.

The sparse opening track, "Window," drifts in, making way for "Thule" in very much the same way One Day I'll be on Time's opener did for "The MP." The characteristics are the same, but fair play to LaValle; for lack of a better cliché, "you cannot beat a winning formula."

"Thule" is the most upfront track on the record; its rigid structure and heartfelt piano melody make it the most obvious 'hit'. "Twentytwofourteen" flows loosely over richly layered strings, an element clearly reminiscent of the aforementioned Icelandic group. The collaboration is demonstrated quite clearly in "Over the Pond", a delicate track of bare and melancholic piano lines complimenting Jon Thor Birgisson's voice to a tee, which is possibly In a Safe Place's standout point.

In a Safe Place sees The Album Leaf branching out into new musical and geographical territory, refining itself in the process. The upbeat moments are accentuated by the bare ones, but at no point does the record drift its unwinding, relaxing mode. At the heart of this tranquillity lies excellent craftsmanship, which may not redefine a generation in the same way that various older Sub Pop bands did, but will undoubtedly make the lives of those that appreciate life's subtleties marginally easier for the time being.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright



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