The Album Leaf

In a Safe Place

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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.

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