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This article & exclusive photos can be found in Issue 2 (p18) of Vhcle Magazine.
the album leaf
The Three Years of Silence is Up: Releasing 
A Chorus of Storytellers

Writer Susan Purdy 
Photographer Melissa Boyd

Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf takes the darkened stage at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall and opens with a soft, low pad on the keys. Band members Matt Resovich (violin, keys, vocals), Drew Andrews (guitar, keys, vocals), Gram LeBron (bass, keys, vocals), Tim Reece (drums) and Andrew Pates (live visuals) join him in what first appears to be some sort of pre-game huddle before slowly spreading to their respective plots on the stage. The pulsing of LaValle from the keys is partnered with a quiet cadence on the drums by Reece. Soon the entire band is joined in creative collaboration, and we watch and sway to the rhythmic heartbeat of  The Album Leaf’s opening song from their latest record.  The new set has been a long time coming, but when Album deliver, they deliver.

Nevertheless, the question must be asked: how does one maintain a relevant voice after not making a sound for three years?

While understanding that LaValle got married and can easily be forgiven for spending time with his lovely wife, chalking up his silence to three years of  “writer’s block” doesn’t cut it for some of his fans. Apparently he feels guilty about it too, according to the band’s website. “How do I stay fresh, realizing that The Album Leaf has been around for so long and that a lot of people wouldn’t give a new record a chance?” he says, referring to A Chorus of Storytellers 

Regardless of uncertainties, the album was released February 2nd and LaValle refuses to kowtow to any doubts furthered by presumed musical hibernation.  

Good thing, too. The band’s sound has benefited from the silence. We’re like children waiting for Christmas, and LaValle and his touring musicians, recorded live for the first time on the new album, have supplied quite a present for us to unwrap. It seems as if LaValle is turning toward an almost (though not quite) acoustic feel and isn’t as dependent on mixing several tracks of a more computerized nature to create the typical Album melody. “We sound so g-damn technical up here,” LaValle tells the sound crew after finishing their first song, and they appropriately adjust the feed. Storytellers seems to be a small step away from the electronic and a step toward the organic. It is not more honest, just more raw.

I can still remember the first time I actually listened to Into the Blue Again, their 2006 record: I was mowing my yard, ear buds shoved into place, with tracks like ‘Broken Arrow’ and ‘Red Eye’ programmed to repeat. There’s no arguing the last record gave the individual a chance to let the mind go blank, to relish in a moment of repose bordering on mental catatonia (even if one is doing something as physical as cutting the grass), and after talking to fans who follow them, it’s clear Album Leaf are a band you listen to when you’re studying for a History exam or writing a term paper, or after you’ve just realized four years of higher education has done absolutely nothing for your future. You listen to them when you either don’t want to think about what you’re hearing, or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, when you want to over-think.

Not so for their newest record. A Chorus of Storytellers is an album that makes one not only pay attention, but mentally participate. Storytellers offers more of a vocal presence on tracks such as ‘There is a Wind’ and ‘Falling From the Sun,’ and this layered and textured sound allows a stronger narrative to the stories LaValle presents. Everyone likes singing, whether they admit to it or not, and these are songs to which we can sing along. It’s the difference between sitting in silent rapture as The Album Leaf tells their tales versus being pulled into and sharing in the telling. “Here we are, locked together,” they sing. “We’ll find a way to fall.” The sense of community and fellowship are so much more prevalent in their newest album. They take us from introspective contemplation to more of a “collective” connection and world view. Even tracks like ‘Standing Still’ are ironically titled as the orchestration musically pushes you to put one foot in front of the other and do something with your friggin’ life. “We’re in this together,” the album says, “whether you like it or not.”

2010: The album Leaf
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