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In a Safe Place

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Album Review

With the news that Jimmy LaValle's solo project the Album Leaf had recorded an LP for Sub Pop at the same studio in Mosfellsbaer, Iceland, previously placed on the musical map by Sigur Rós (and including several members of the band in tow), indie fans began to imagine a transatlantic version of the Postal Service, perfectly ripe for crossover one year after the Postal Service's Sub Pop debut, Give Up, ruled the college charts. LaValle's first two full-lengths as the Album Leaf were gorgeous and meditative, putting him in perfect company with Sigur Rós; his best pieces, including "Wet the Day" from One Day I'll Be On Time, possessed a quiet, unchanging stillness that neatly connected the dots between ambient legends Claude Debussy, Cluster, Roger Eno, Oval, and Sigur Rós themselves. In a Safe Place, however, includes no magic to compare to his earlier work. The album is exactly the sum of its parts, perhaps less and definitely no more. LaValle retains his heavily textural, impressionist flair, but has begun to repeat himself heavily, with none of the freshness or vigor of previous material. He also sacrifices nearly all of the record's precious atmosphere by insisting on a basic drum kit track to drive many of the tracks (though later in the record, he turns to a skittery digital percussion that favors these songs). Only one piece hints at the record's full power, "Over the Pond," on which LaValle plays a simple, slightly changing Satie line on keyboards while the full Sigur Rós trio are heard for the first time, playing up their brand of studied melancholy with help from cello and violin. The only other notable success is "On Your Way," which features LaValle with Pall Jenkins, his collaborator in the Black Heart Procession.

Customer Reviews


I don’t really understand why the iTunes reviews seem to have such a hate on for The Album Leaf. This is a pleasing listen all the way through and an impressive effort. I started with this album but I have them all now. The highlights for me are the few songs with lyrics but I like the entire album. Sometimes you have to be in the mood for the instrumental stuff, but sometimes it’s always fitting. I was actually drawn to “In A Safe Place” when I first heard ‘Eastern Glow.’ It has really striking, mournful violin, not to mention the keyboard and variety of other melodic instrumentation. The lyrics are wise. It’s just such a cool song. The drums on ‘Thule’ are a nice touch, ‘Twenty Two Fourteen’ is lovely, the techno beat later on is neat, the Celtic-like ending also nice. ‘Outer Banks’ is a standout: the instrumentation is rich and again a bit Celtic. That vibe exists throughout, actually. “On your Way’ is great, ‘Over the Pond’ is excellent--sort of eerie but alluring. “Moss Mountain Town” feels quite reflective, sad, beautiful nonetheless. The surprise in this track is that after a bit of ambient noise, then silence, at the 4:15 mark is another song. You have to have the volume high and it’s best when you have headphones on


Formed: 1999 in San Diego, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

The Album Leaf is the solo project of Jimmy LaValle, a San Diego-based songwriter who began recording solo material one year after forming the post-rock band Tristeza. Inspired by a number of genres -- classical, jazz, and post-rock among them -- LaValle constructed his own songs in a similarly eclectic manner, utilizing everything from ambient noise to field recordings to radio transmissions. An Orchestrated Rise to Fall introduced the resulting sound in 1999. An EP (In an Off White Room) preceded...
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