Jimmy LaValle has now been recording as the Album Leaf for ten years. In that time, he’s created some incredibly stirring compositions, collaborated with some likeminded epic performers, and yet never quite reaching the heights of popularity that he’s so richly deserved from albums such as In a Safe Place. Since that release, the Album Leaf has had productive partnerships with members of Sigur Rós and the latest album, A Chorus of Storytellers follows suit. The album is once again mixed by the resident engineer of Sigur Rós’ Icelandic studio, and a few Icelandic horn players also contribute.
There are a few differences between Album Leaf’s latest and earlier efforts. For one, the title alludes to the nature of the album’s recording. LaValle enlists a backup band to flesh out each song. There is a noticeable difference, a bit of skin and muscle added to LaValle’s skeletal Rhodes piano. However, the difference isn’t as dramatic as one might imagine. The songs on Storytellers float along wistfully and dreamily, a pleasant journey that is devoid of theatrics and melodrama. The judgment of which will lie in the ear of the listener.
One of the biggest differences is the progression toward pop with the vocals on half of the album. “We Are” is the most prominent example, as straightforward a pop track as the Album Leaf has ever approached. The strongest tunes on Storytellers start in the center of the album with a string of three solid songs in a row in “Within Dreams,” “Falling From the Sun,” and “Stand Still.” These songs show the most dramatic range in an album that generally remains at a placid level throughout. It may not be the Album Leaf’s most solid album to date, but is another engaging chapter in a decade long career and counting.