The Album Leaf

Into the Blue Again
(Sub Pop)

The best Album Leaf album, Seal Beach, distinguished itself in two ways: The songs were all instrumentals, and the record was only an EP. On his subsequent full-length efforts, The Album Leaf's Jimmy LaValle has further cultivated an introspective, expansive style of tranquil electronica, but the discs' longer running times and LaValle's decision to fill some songs with his drab vocals left them sounding somewhat samey and conventional. Into the Blue Againhasn't completely licked the problem — the weakest tracks bear unfavorable comparison to the sort of anodyne, airy soundscapes you hear while shopping at Crate & Barrel — but LaValle puts across his highly melodic sentiments strongest when he lets the keyboards and drum machines do the talking for him. "Red-Eye" captures the sleepless Twilight Zone surrealism of a late-night flight, mixing anxiety with strange beauty. Later, on "Wishful Thinking," the interplay between a slow, mournful violin and a stately piano figure — a LaValle one-two specialty — eloquently dissects the no man's land of romantic melancholy. LaValle doesn't need to supply any words; you can fill in the emotional blanks well enough yourself.

 
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