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The Album Leaf

A Chorus of Storytellers

[Sub Pop; 2010]

By ; February 4, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

When one attempts grandiose art of any variety, be it visual or aural, there’s a great potential for failure. You have to pay close attention, not only to the grand scheme, but to the little minutiae, for it is these small details that will distinguish your art in this overcrowded, digital age. Just as a painter must watch the littlest of brush strokes, so must a musician pay a special care to each note that’s pressed to an album. Fortunately for us, on A Chorus of Storytellers, Jimmy LaVelle displays this acute ability that is so uncommon amongst his peers.

From the beginning, Lavelle aims big, and succeeds. The recurrent keyboard melody in “Perro” allows the song to float along, until the ethereal wordless melodies carry the song to its conclusion. Also of note is the song’s use of a childhood Spanish lesson to segue into the body of the album. It’s a technique often employed by other artists of the electronic persuasion, and here it’s used to great effect, bringing levity to an album that’s so often focused on the melancholic. Nothing about the album is particularly challenging – it’s wholly inoffensive, but sometimes it’s just better that way. Were he to delve into anything more harsh or experimental, it would have surely taken away from the sheer orchestral beauty that carries songs like “Falling From The Sun.”

Although he’s from sunny San Diego, California, LaVelle has recorded each of his solo albums in Iceland and the influence of bands like Sigur Ros and Múm is surely felt. However, he doesn’t fall into the trap of aping his contemporaries; rather, he uses their work as jumping off points to make the beautifully mellow instrumentals all his own.

As a whole, A Chorus of Storytellers is a relatively homogenous album, but this may work to its benefit. Because it never deviates too far from the formula established at the outset of “Perro”, songs like “Until The Last” can exist. Its simple piano line and skittering snare might be seen as a bit boring in other contexts, but because the album flows so well, it fits right in and provides an interesting counterpoint to the boomy bassline that directly follows it on “We Are.” LaVelle’s voice seems perfectly suited to the sound. He never shouts, begs, deadpans or coos. His delivery is near robotic, in fact, devoid of emotion in the best possible way. It’s detached and it contributes to the dreamy haze that he constructs through the course of the album.

The overriding cliché that often pervades reviews of albums as lushly produced as this one is that with each passing listen, different little pieces reveal themselves, but in this case it’s true. A Chorus of Storytellers is just too much to absorb in one sitting, and it’s something that you will still probably be revisiting at this time next year.


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