The Album Leaf: A Chorus of Storytellers

RIYL: Hammock, Death Cab for Cutie, Pink Floyd

It’s hard to believe this is the Album Leaf’s fifth album release, and that the group, led by mastermind Jimmy LaValle, is celebrating 10 years of existence. But here it is, A Chorus of Storytellers, the group’s new one, and it’s the same dreamy alt-pop LaValle and company has become known for – but even more polished, if that’s at all possible. Only four of the ten tracks on A Chorus of Storytellers have vocals, but it’s not like you expect an album from these guys to be full of vocal music anyway. In fact, some of their instrumental material is their best, the kind of music that takes you away to a far-off euphoric island and lets you forget about everything going on around you. Of course, it’s also incredibly pleasant music to work to or play in the background of a hipster party. The ten tracks on here flow nicely together, but some of the standouts are the melancholy instrumentals “Within Dreams” and “Stand Still,” and the dark yet strangely uplifting “Until the Last.” But LaValle really shines on the vocal number, “We Are,” which has a beautiful melody and subtly awesome harmonies against a stunning musical backdrop. Too many adjectives? Maybe, but The Album Leaf’s music continues to be adjective-inspiring. (Sub Pop 2010)

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Sunny Day Real Estate: Diary/LP2 (Reissues)



RIYL: Smashing Pumpkins, Polvo, Mineral

Even if you haven’t actually heard the music of Sunny Day Real Estate, chances are you at least have seen them name-checked in countless record reviews and interviews. We’ll spare you all of the “they helped spark the emo movement” hoopla and just dig into what’s really important here. The folks at Sub Pop have just re-released the first two albums by this almost mythical Washington state outfit. Both collections are filled to the gills with angular guitars, prog-rock styled rhythmic arrangements, and unorthodox yet infectious vocal melodies.

Originally released in 1994, Diary sounded like nothing else when it first crept its way onto college rock playlists. For starters, Jeremy Enigk’s vocals seem to come from another planet completely. His ethereal singing style had his notes often floating through the guitars and drums much like a keyboard or orchestra would. Imagine the Cocteau Twins’s Elizabeth Fraser fronting Smashing Pumpkins during the Gish era, and you would be close to what SDRE sounded like at the time. As layered and dissonant as the material on Diary was, the band’s hardcore punk roots definitely sprout up in moments. “Seven” and the bombastic chorus in “In Circles” were straight-forward and crunchy enough to hook in Sick of it All fans, while the introspective parts of the music appealed to the indie kids. This album changed a lot of people’s lives, and a million bands were born out of its influence.

In 1995 SDRE released LP2, which their cultish following quickly dubbed “The Pink Album.” The record came out posthumously as the combo had broken up earlier that year. It seemed like the adulation and mounting pressure that came along with the left-field success of Diary had done the guys in. Luckily SDRE managed to finish the sessions for LP2 despite the personal struggles they were going through at the time. The album’s nine songs span everything from King Crimson-esque guitar spaz-outs to gentler ballad-like moments. It’s a tougher listen than their debut album, but once you dig deeper into its heart, it’s an even more rewarding experience than anything else they’ve ever recorded. (Sub Pop 2009)

Click to buy Diary from Amazon
Click to buy LP2 from Amazon


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