The Album Leaf - In a Safe Place
Most post-rock bands take a simple melodic idea and build it into a giant, huge crescendo. To do this, they start small and simply, and allow their idea to accrete a drum beat, a chord progression, maybe violin. The band Explosions in the Sky has the motto "From Silence to Violence," suggesting this exact process; they don't vary melody and harmony as much as they do dynamics, instrumentation, and the overall furious energy and passion of their songs. The band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, for example, even uses multi-part songs lasting up to half an hour to move through their giant, imposing concepts, similarly going from troughs to crests and back again. This formula is the backbone of post-rock as a genre, and a band's particular niche in the genre, is determined as much by their key selection and instrumentation as it is by the degree to which they adhere or diverge from this standard. GY!BE uses tons of large highs and lows, making their pieces sound well-thought out and precise. Red Sparrowes rarely dip below a certain intensity level and instead spread out their peaks by having smoother tones and effects during midtempo sections and by having faster, more intense and dissonant passages to reel in crescendos. The Album Leaf begins their songs with "silence" but never reach "violence." All of their songs are consonant, and never reach the harrowing heights of GY!BE or even Soli i Sombra. They all feel like they never step above the particular indie stylings of bands like American Football and Appleseed Cast. So, does this mean their brand of post-rock is unique and wonderful for straying from the genre paradigm in a new way? The answer is just "sort of" on both accounts.
In terms of being unique, their style on a larger level in the eyes of post-rock, yes, is indeed a new variety. However, this is because on a smaller level, they are snagging techniques from alternative, indie, and pop music that allow them to be engrossing and fun at their peaks, which aren't particularly intense or insane. As mentioned earlier they invoke the stylings of American Football, Appleseed Cast, Elliott, and tons of other indie bands that feel very calm and lo-fi, even at their peaks. Similarly they use pretty guitar arpeggios, slow repeating bass lines, and plodding drums. In addition are slight flourishes of violin and trumpet, very much like the instrumentation of certain American Football songs. Also, the most different instrument is the drums, which typically lay out for most of a song, or sound like computer generated blipping that sound exactly like the clicking drumming during the outro to "Matroshka" by Dredg. Overall, anything you hear on this album is a rehashing of stuff that's been done before.
Now, though, in terms of being wonderful, at moments The Album Leaf are super enjoyable, but as an album In a Safe Place
has some unfortunate flaws. It is way too homogenous, which is likely due to the lack of distinct peaks and valleys. Individually the songs plod on a lot, and as a whole the album too gets mushy as the song divisions blur together. This relegates the album to background music quality, and even then it leads me ask to "which song is this again?" whenever I've zoned out while listening to this. And although there is this unfortunate flaw, in general, the songs are really enjoyable. It's tough to dislike music that is so consonant without being sappy. Everything on this album is sweet, but doesn't cloy, making it instantly likable, though it has no long term value. So, I'd say that this album is great if I only had to listen to it once, or maybe if I heard a few of the better songs on a mix tape a friend gave to me, but this won't be making any Top 10 lists any time soon.
Recommended Tracks: Track 3, the one that's nice to listen to when falling asleep with your girlfriend oh wait that's all of them