Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Album Leaf and Sea Wolf at the El Rey Theater

My appreciation for The Album Leaf dates back to when I used to see them open for Sigur Ros. Jimmy LaValle is the sole mastermind behind the Rhodes keyboard for The Album Leaf and recently relinquished some control to his skilled tourmates by recording their lastest album, A Chorus Of Storytellers as a full live band for a more cohesive output.

Sea Wolf

The fact that Sea Wolf was on the bill erased any doubts that this show would sell out. I was dissappointed that I missed their show in Las Vegas when they opened for Phoenix because of a photopass mix up. White Water, White Bloom is the latest release from Sea Wolf and displays a solid progression from their sparkling debut album, Leaves In The River.

Alex Church confidently stepped up to the microphone and proceeded to strum the warm chords of the title track from the new album. The singing cello intro of "Winter Windows" fluttered courtesy of Joyce Lee, as Lisa Fendelander delicately inserted the keyboards into the mix. The applause after each song seemed surprising to Church and his bandmates. It is safe to say that some folks definitely came solely to watch Sea Wolf.

"Dew In The Grass" starts off with a swooning cello line before picking up steam with its reaffirming chorus and cymbal splashes. Taking a slightly somber direction, the quiet plucked acoustic guitar parts of "Black Leaf Falls" highlight Church's vocals and demonstrate how well he can carry a song. The toe tapping beat of "Middle Distance Runner" wisely followed suit and sounded pristine.

Elevating the mood with the musically upbeat song "The Traitor", Sea Wolf easily had won over most of the crowd. "O Maria!" was another crowd pleaser from their latest album and lead nicely into "Turn The Dirt Over". Church missed a vocal cue during "Wicked Blood' but covered up his gaffe with a wry smile. "You're A Wolf" closed out their forty minute set that made me realize I still need to catch a full set by Sea Wolf as I didn't hear my favorite song "The Cold, The Dark & The Silence".

The Album Leaf

It was overwhelming seeing the amount of band members take the stage for The Album Leaf. I'm used to seeing The Album Leaf as a four man outfit back when they played the Echo and Detroit Bar. Accompanied by the Magik Magik String Quartet, the El Rey stage was completely full. The other surprise was seeing Gram Lebron holding down the low end as I'm used to see him play in Rogue Wave.

The iconic leaf image was projected on the background screen as the somber organ like notes of "Ferro" started to reverberate throughout the El Rey. Violins started to swirl during "Blank Pages" gently propelled by the drums of Tim Reece. The Album Leaf are masters of conjuring up lush collages of sound. Only within the past few albums have they wisely added vocals to their songs such as "There Is A Wind".

A stuttering electronic drum beat was overshadowed by Magik Magik String Quartet and the icy cool Rhodes keyboards notes for "Within Dreams". I started to suspect they were going to play the full new album in its entirety after playing "Falling From The Sun" and the hypnotic drum shuffle of "Stand Still" back to back. The familiar glockenspiel pecks of "Twenty Two Fourteen" garnered cheers from the crowd as they seemed eager to hear some older material.

Continuing to play material from In A Safe Place, "The Outer Banks" was another breezy Rhodes keyboard riff highlighted by the pitter patter of electronic drums and ringing repetitive guitar notes by Drew Andrews. Venturing back to their latest album, "We Are" is one of my favorite tracks with its driving percussion, yet the string section really made the song soar.

"Wherever I Go" was one of my favorite tunes from their album, Into the Blue Again and brought their main set to a close. "Always For You" , "Red-Eye" and "Tied Knots" rounded out the encore for a sublime evening. The Album Leaf will be back touring the country with Sea Wolf and I hope they make another Los Angeles stop before the tour ends or I may have to venture down to San Diego.

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