The Album Leaf
June 22, 2004
Sub Pop / City Slang
Window and Thule open the record much in the fashion we have grown familiar with but with more energy and fuller arrangements than the previous releases are known for. The instrumental arrangement is still very layered and contemplative though with touching strings and the ever present Rhodes piano.
Then we come to On Your Way which starts off distant and held back as it slowly eases into a groove. And then, suddenly, the vocals are present. Gravely and somewhat awkward but fitting. The vocals aren't perfect but the space these 'flaws' provides fills up nicely with the sounds of the arrangement, which makes the complete package very interesting.
The arrangement of Twenty Two Fourteen is absolutely gorgeous and haunting and shows the typical LaValle restraint and control until it leads into The Outer Banks which is a little repetitive for my taste and the building of suspense in the track is a little too predictable. It was only a slip of concentration though as LaValle immediately comes back with a strong composition in Over The Pond which has Birgisson's trademark Hopelandic vocals and the reworked and sampled vocals give the song a weird and awkward feel that is right at home on this record.
The later stages of the record are in typical The Album Leaf fashion with the mesmerizing gem Streamside as an absolute highlight. It's the kind of arrangement that gets you to dream. The only thing missing is a Nick Drake-type melancholy-filled vocalist to lend a hand. But damn, that arrangement is gorgeous. The closer Moss Mountain Town is very subdued and is a fitting end to this record.