The Album Leaf - Into the Blue Again (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Album Leaf

Into the Blue Again (2006)

Sub Pop

Certain movies just have that intangible ability to completely engross you.

Lost in Translation fit that bill.

I can honestly say I don't remember a single line of dialogue, any of the characters beyond Bill Murray's and Scarlett Johansson's, and I remember very few scenes in particular. Regardless, what I do remember is being completely sucked in for the film's duration. The lights, the sounds, the atmosphere, it put you in Tokyo. It put you on those busy streets with lined with neon as far as the eye can see -- it grabbed you and never let go. I find the Album Leaf's Into the Blue Again to be very much in that same category. It's an album rather than a movie, obviously, but the same inherent qualities are there. I don't remember any songs in particular, any lyric, but what I do remember is laying back and feeling amidst the gorgeous musical tapestry the band laid forth. Truly gorgeous if ever an album was, with every minute just as warm and inviting as the last.

The vocals are kept to a minimum, but the beautiful instrumentation is held at a premium. The combination of violin, Rhodes piano, organ, synthesizers, and drum programming is one that weaves an intricate and engaging story, often without having to utter a single word. "Red-Eye" immediately evokes an eerie and unsettling feeling with the combination of dark, brooding piano keystrokes and some Telefon Tel Aviv-esque synth work. It's a simple recipe, but one that's able to evoke more feeling and emotion than most bands with ten times as much going on. Sometimes, simplicity truly is the best road to travel. Throughout the song's winding course, the Album Leaf tinker with a variety of tempos to add diversity to what could otherwise grow stale. At just over seven minutes, not a single instance is wasted, not one twist or turn comes without commanding full attention.

And they're able to do just as well with a much shorter template.

"Wherever I Go" is one of the handful of tracks that brings vocals into the fray, and it's such a smooth and effortless transition you're liable to not know one was made at all. Jimmy Lavalle's deep baritone calls the late Ian Curtis to mind, and the striking piano work in the background brings it all full circle. The Album Leaf is just as comfortable with a more traditional song structure as they are with ambient and instrumental pieces, and that versatility speaks volumes for their character.

A gorgeous sensory experience from beginning to end, this record holds you in its grip and makes sure you'll never even try to leave. It evokes emotion, it evokes beautiful imagery, it evokes a full feeling that few bands could even attempt to replicate. All that's left is for you to lay back, close your eyes , and let it all soak in.