The Album Leaf In a Safe Place

[Sub Pop; 2004]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: post-rock, experimental, instrumental rock, ambient
Others: Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Brian Eno, Múm

An old Oxford graduate used to laugh about the human emotions that create poetry; quite often he would say: "Do you think anyone would have written anything if it weren't for pain and loss? These emotions make us feel, and they have helped us write poetry through the centuries." Whether the old guy was right or not is debatable, but he left us something to chew on. There does seem to be a certain mix of wistfulness and sadness that goes into the writing of a poem, a story, a song, a novel; it's a sense of otherworldliness and base humanity 'twined: a stroke of genius that can't quite hoist the artist to a higher spiritual level. Jimmy LaValle has captured this dichotomy musically on In a Safe Place, the perfect accompaniment to any such creative activity. It's ethereal and inspirational yet lonely, an iced-over pond in the dead of winter.

In a Safe Place was released during the warmth of summer, but the beginning notes of "Window" suggest winter: cold, still, desolate. Hope soon emerges throughout songs like "Thule" and "The Outer Banks," more upbeat instrumentals that form this record's more optimistic characteristics. Jon Thor Birgisson of Sigur Rós guests on "Over the Pond," contributing his trademark vocals to the accompaniment of trembling violin and piano eighth notes. LaValle himself, forever the hypnotizing instrumentalist, introduces his own vocals on "On Your Way." As unremarkable as his vocals are, they are mixed into the tinkling instrumentals in a way that emphasizes equal significance, a vocal/instrumental counterpoint, almost.

This isn't an edgy, experimental record. It instead explores human nature through conventional tonality and flow, delicately combining melancholy, detachment, and exhilaration. It's an emotional composite and an empathetic match to the sensibilities that, according to the wise old Oxford grad, aids the creation of beauty.

1. Window
2. Thule
3. On Your Way
4. Twentytwofourteen
5. The Outer Banks
6. Over the Pond
7. Another Day
8. Streamside
9. Eastern Glow
10. Moss Mountain Town