» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

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
The Album Leaf
Into the Blue Again
Sub Pop

Rating: 9/10 ?

September 20, 2006
I have yet to visit the post-rock haven of Iceland, and so it is difficult for me to imagine what the small island nation, which has produced such intriguing artists as Sigur Rós, Björk, Múm, and Emiliana Torrini, actually looks like. I had always heard that Iceland was populated by gorgeous men and women with nothing much to occupy their time beyond sex and heavy drinking, and that the country was blessed with masses of natural hot springs owing to Iceland's prolific volcanic activity. Most people, though, assume Iceland to be a very cold place. Critics, in near unanimity, waxed poetic on how In a Safe Place, The Album Leaf's 2004 effort, evoked the chill nothingness of Iceland in its bleak strains and haunting passages. I know little about what a chill nothingness is, but I do know that Into the Blue Again, Jimmy LaValle's newest creation, is indeed a much warmer album than In a Safe Place.

Mixed in Iceland, Into the Blue Again was recorded in an airy barn outside of Seattle, of all places, throughout December of 2005, and does not contain the collaboration of its predecessor. This is LaValle all alone, and at his best. A lush reflection on the American pastoral, Into the Blue Again, The Album Leaf's fourth full-length, moves away from desolation, ice, and nothingness to instead conjure images of quiet woods and flowing streams in the retreats of America. This is an album recounting a journey, one that moves through the mind, amongst aged pine trees and salmon runs, leading us "Into the Sea." The "Blue Again" of the title could be anything, from a clear September sky to the Puget Sound to the eyes of a lost love. "The Light" sets the tone by opening the album with a quiet keyboard loop and single guitar string plucks. The momentum builds throughout the songs, leading us through various states of mind and environments. Electronic beats and blips mix seamlessly with organic strings, processed guitars, and keyboards. We end the journey with the reflective musings of "Broken Arrow," wondering if we took the right path to begin with or made a misstep somewhere along the way.

LaValle is at his weakest when adding his own vocals to the mix. His lyrics are clichéd observations on love, how all his thoughts were "Always for You," and his singing is an odd combination of chant-speaking that has never worked for me. But his lyricism is kept to a minimum here, which allows the beautiful music to take center stage. This really is pretty music. The orchestration is gorgeous, with such string-heavy songs as "Red-Eye" overtaking the listener, while the piano, guitar, and strings on "Wherever You Go" leave us contemplating whatever it was that led us here.

The Album Leaf's music does not contain the same intricacies, experimentation, or depth of such post-rock brethren as Sigur Rós, God Speed You! Black Emperor, or Explosions in the Sky. But that's fine. Into the Blue stands on its own as a unique and thoughtful reflection of things past, present, and future. There are certainly worse ways to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon than venturing into LaValle's world, which is a rewarding thing to do. It sure is pretty to think so.

Reviewed by Eric J. Morgan
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Eric J. Morgan is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Colorado. He has an orange cat named Nelson and longs for the day when men and women will again dress in three-piece suits and pretty dresses to indulge in three-martini lunches and afternoon affairs.

See other reviews by Eric J. Morgan



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