The Album Leaf

A Chorus of Storytellers

Sub Pop

The Album Leaf’s new record ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’ is a very nice album. They’ve been recording for the last ten years and are signed to Sub Pop records, which should tell you something, although I’ve never heard of them before. Possibly because they’re so nice. You know like one of those people that you get introduced to when you meet a friend, say, outside the cinema. Who’s that with Alex, you think. You say hello, shake hands – even if it’s a girl. It feels a bit odd shaking hands with a girl but then kissing someone you don’t know is a bit odd too. They seem very nice. They don’t say much but look friendly enough and while you end up chatting to your friend they smile and laugh along with the jokes. You’ve got to go in, your film’s about to start. Plus you still need to get popcorn (mix salt/sweet of course) so you say “Nice to meet you!” and never think of that person again.

So, uh, yeah that’s this album. Warm and electronica-tinged, some vocals but mainly instrumentals. Definitely not unpleasant to listen to. Not really saying anything though. Like if you’re at a party in one of those bars where you have to shout everything although you haven’t drunk enough for the shouting to come naturally. Just as you’re thinking to yourself about how stupid it is that these places actually make you have to get pissed as a basic operating requirement. You’re about to head to the bar, or better still maybe just disappear entirely when someone says hello. You don’t even recognise them but they know your name. It’s bad enough forgetting someone’s name but forgetting their whole face is terrible. Eventually you piece it together, you ask if they’ve seen Alex, yes, he’s coming down later. Then that’s it, you’re just making excruciating small talk with someone, desperately scanning the room for one of your friends even though you hate people who scan the room, and so you’ve become something that you hate and all because this person is just nice.

Oh yeah, sorry, the album. That’s what happens. You start off listening to it – then four or five minutes later you come out of a train of thought and remember you were supposed to listening to it.

It would make good film soundtrack music. It’s melodic and courses with pleasant emotion and I can imagine Gael Garcia Bernal doing something cool up the side of sunbaked mountain with ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’ playing in the background. But I’d get someone else to write the main theme.

3/5 (Although if you’re building an Ikea wardrobe it gets 5/5)


25th Jan 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Big Pink

A Brief History of Love

Big Pink eh? Classics like ‘The Weight’ and ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ comprised an impressive first album by The Band and in retrospect, while the songs are more divergent than their eponymous...

Hang on, where am I? This isn’t Mojo magazine. Any comparisons to Robbie Robertson’s folk-rock outfit can stop there. We’re talking Neo-Shoegaze baby, we’re talking Shoetronica, we’re talking 'bout Nu Gaze. Sonic cathedrals of noise are all the rage again right now… though when I tried playing my M83 album in the whispering gallery at St Paul’s, I was rudely ejected.

The hype machine for 4AD’s new signing is starting to crank up like a string of Kevin Shield’s effects pedals and if you listen to the radio you’ve probably already heard The Big Pink's single ‘Dominos’ – a catchy FM friendly stomp that equates girls who have inner-ear balance issues to pizzas or South London-based Indie labels.

‘A Brief History of Love’ is a big sounding album. Vast swathes of sound echo wash over you, all fizzing noise and blankets of warm guitar under sweeping skies of analogue static, with a backbone of drums and epic machine-made beats. It makes for a good headphone listen, although I imagine they’ve got other spaces in mind, like playing to the sunset crowd on the Other Stage at Glastonbury – you can pretty much see the light show in your head during the more climactic moments.

More than a few times it brought to mind School of Seven Bells’ album ‘Alpinisms’, which has a similar intricate yet expansive production. Ultimately though, that became my problem with this record, in that ‘A Brief History of Love’ kept coming out unfavourably in comparison. School of Seven Bells minus all the clever sounds would still make for a very weird and interesting listen, with their crystalline harmonies and strange poem-like lyrics. If you strip out The Big Pink’s shimmering soundscapes, what’s left?

Underneath what’s fair to say is an immaculately produced record, I kept on finding The Verve (on the slow, moody ones) or Kasabian (on the meaty, beaty ones). Lyrically, the word ‘baby’ seems to come up quite a lot. But what do I know? I don’t imagine School of Seven Bells sell that many records, while Kasabian definitely do. The Big Pink will probably become immensely successful and next year, as I’m flicking channels and come across their sunset Glasto slot on the BBC iPlayer, I’ll be able to say “I told you so”.


10th Sep 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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