While I'm still totally found of the first releases of The Album Leaf, this albums leaves me undecided and skeptical as there are too many weaknesses and not enough assets.
The problem n°1 from my point of view is the way Jimmy LaValle sings as he is trying to much to succeed about it and forgets the intimacy and subtlety through the process. We are transported in the territory of bands like Postal Service or The Notwist when he used to confront us with a more refined and less pop approach.
Maybe he should have unlearnt to sing with this deceptive goal to sound classically pop and instead just have used shy lyrics and whispers. He's not the pop singer he hoped he could be and it simply kills several songs like “Always for you”, “Writings on the wall” or “Wherever I go”.
Problem n°2 is his systematic use of trite programmed beats which kill the synth layers and guitar works, like on “Redeye”, “Shine” or on “Into the sea”, making bland instrumentals as a final result.
Problem n°3 is the way he uses strings, making “Broken Arrow” or “Wishful Thinking “ fall into pure muzak sentimentality.
I am left with two instrumental tracks with a more diffuse structure, more like ambient interlude. This fact is not really a surprise because the best parts of the early Album Leaf discography belongs to this category. “The Light” and “See in you” possess this volatile melancholy, these autumn colors which made his music so precious. Enough place is left for the guitar and synth layers and honest emotions arises slowly. The talent of Jimmy LaValle isn't lost, he just tried to follow a decidedly more mainstream path on this record.