A Chorus of Storytellers is Jimmy LaValle’s third album for indie label Sub Pop, and at it’s finest moments, it proves that this is the most cohesive Album Leaf record to date. While it maintains many of the electronic flourishes that existed on past works, the latest piece somehow comes together a little bit tighter, forming stronger collection of songs.
For me, it all starts with the title, and for that part, the cover art. Artists of this ilk can rely upon these mediums to further their message. Sure, all artists should do this, but it’s even more important with acts that remain instrumental. And the title, A Chorus of Storytellers, should really say it all. While I’ve lambasted electronic music in the past, it is works such as this that strive to make a coherent story, to create a plot within their music. Such is the story within this record, as illustrated on the cover. It just begs you to create your own story of the man ashore while his boat drifts aimlessly away.
Of course, one thing that differentiates this album from purely electronic or post-rock music, if you wish to call it that, is the inclusion of songs which use lyrics. “Falling From the Sun,” for example, is a pleasant enough tune, and you can easily follow as the melody rises and falls, especially in the vocal performance. But, moments such as this make things to clear for the listener; this is something that detracts from the overall listening experience. Lyrics, in this case, push a story upon you when you’d rather just float off into your own world.
You can take a song like “Within Dreams,” which in itself recalls the ability to drift off with your own thoughts. Slowly, you can feel the song fall asleep on you, as if you too are going into that deep REM sleep. Then you can hear the faint touches of string instruments, and you’re off an running in a dream of your own. It is here where LaValle succeeds the most, as he allows you to immerse yourself in the song, and take the song wherever you want to go. Happily, it’s not constructed of mere loops, and the national progression lends itself to the telling of tales. “Until the Last” is another such song; it is along the lines of Balmorhea or even a less-dangerous version of Mogwai.
Up until the middle point of the album, the record is really strong. It has its ups and downs, but it also adds enough diversity for you to be invested wholly into the album. However, towards the end, there are a bit too many songs with vocals. This isn’t a disaster by any means, as the songs are actually really good, “Almost There” in particular, but it does break up the flow of the album. Still, A Chorus of Storytellers provides many listenable moments that prove Jimmy and The Album Leaf still can concoct magic out of their post-rcok potions.
Download: The Album Leaf – Falling From The Sun [MP3]