The Album Leaf – Into the Blue Again

The Album Leaf – Into the Blue Again
Sub Pop – 3 1/2 stars

When the first fifteen minutes of Into the Blue Again have finished ticking off, pause your CD player. No, turn it off. If you go any further, you will ruin this record for yourself. If you quit now, your reward will be fifteen minutes of thoughtful and melodic and honest mostly-instrumental rock, the kind of taffy-pull slow ambient and beautiful droning that works like a hard gravity pulling rain down a windowpane, sweat down a sideburn, etc. The problem is, you can’t fake passion; maybe you just can’t love a drum machine. The record’s second half basically copies the first, supplementing the lush – if a bit clichéd – string arrangements with cold, hard computers. While Mogwai made this work on Mr. Beast, the Album Leaf are not quite as fortunate. What was supposed to come across as interesting / boundary-pushing / whatever just takes away from the intimacy of the acoustic instruments.  Don’t get me wrong, the second half is nice enough on its own, it just never tops the majesty of the opening act, and the blippy percussion smudges the songs together like a fingerpainting.  Despite the effort, Into the Blue Again stops being memorable quickly and fades into the depths of the hard drive, to be seen only when drinking coffee in the bedroom.

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