For his fifth album, A Chorus of Storytellers, the Album Leaf mastermind Jimmy LaValle decided to make some changes to the old formula his solo project stuck with. Most notably, LaValle recorded the album with a live band, rather than going at it alone with the help of a series of contributors. The result comes off feeling more alive and organic than his previous work. As with his past albums, though, there are still plenty of drum machines holding down the rhythm section, creating a blend of post-rock and ambient electronic sounds that we’ve come to expect from these outings. The problem, however, is that while A Chorus of Storytellers brings the two genres together, it doesn’t commit to either of them enough to get at what makes them appealing. The songs have a lot of layered melody, but lack the explosive payoff of Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. Meanwhile, the ambient parts help to create a mood, but don’t feel quite spacious enough, sometimes feeling like an afterthought. This middle of the road approach leaves the album feeling more homogenous than dynamic. On “Until the Last,” the electronic and live drums fight it out for supremacy. Instead of the two finding some kind of balance, the live set feels big and live while the drum machine proves to be little more than a distraction. All in all, A Chorus of Storytellers makes for better background music than a main attraction. While it feels like the songs were all carefully put together with a specific vision in mind, the album is lacking in movement and excitement. Though the album won’t disappoint fans of the Album Leaf, it may not be engaging enough for anyone showing up late to the party.
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney