Album Cover
The Album Leaf
In a Safe Place
Sub Pop
June 22, 2004


At first listen, I was struck by two different approaches of appreciation one can take when listening to this album. The first was to recognize that these lovely tracks could serve as a total catalyst for pleasant introspection and quiet musings... not unlike nighttime driving on a deserted road lined with backlit trees, fond memories of love or childhood or past epiphanies swelling, and the urge to either relish in the aloneness or to hold someone's hand, dammit.

The other was to take into conscious consideration that this album was created in Iceland: A crystallized country gilded in white, which also touts some of the more peaceful, moving, and innovative music of our generation (think: Björk, Sigur Ros, etc.). So here you have Jimmy Lavalle, aka Album Leaf and a founding member of Trisetza, who has already proven that he understands the purpose of instrumental music: To create a soundtrack for our moments without using lyrics to tell us how to feel. This fella displaced himself from his cozy residence in San Diego, CA (a city which also has music-related bragging rights, ie; Pinback, Drive Like Jehu, Black Heart Procession, need I go on..?), and moved his ass to the inspirational country of Iceland to create this album.

A Safe Place, indeed.

But don't get me wrong: San Diego does represent on this album, as do Icelandic artists and (gasp) lyrics, all of which turn out to be very fortunate decisions. Jon Thor Birgisson of Sigur Ros and Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession both contribute their skills to the album, including vocals on songs "On Your Way" (Jenkins) and "Over the Pond" (Birgisson), which happen to be two of the more noteworthy tracks on the album.

Although each song featured on A Safe Place contain unique qualities, a track-by-track dissection doesn't seem necessary for this review. They bleed into each other so nicely that the album is more easily appreciated as a sum than a collection of parts. Friendly beats, both traditional/organic and electronically sequenced in a quietly IDM-influenced style, balance out the soft ambience of the signature organ and drifting guitar melodies. The construction of each track is simple yet deliberate. Like water molecules forming a snowflake, each note serves its purpose to create something shy and beautiful, yet with enough of a pop element to keep the listener awake.

Case in point, I love instrumental music but am severely tired of hearing gratuitously dramatic/apocalyptic/filled with swelling strings, guitar feedback, or general crap noisiness in such music to theoretically "make up" for the lack of lyrics. A Safe Place indulges in none of the above. On the contrary, the Album Leaf keeps it simple and lovely in a refreshingly unpretentious fashion. And while it's not the most innovative or exciting thing to hit the block as of late, you can turn to this album when you want to hear something with ethereal elegance that will keep you engaged and also make you feel at home. In my opinion, A Safe Place is a safe bet. Listen while dreaming of angular glaciers, northern lights, and the moments of your life worthy of reminiscence.


Track List

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