The best Album Leaf album, Seal Beach, distinguished itself in two ways: The songs were all instrumentals, and the record was only an EP. On his subsequent full-length efforts, The Album Leaf's Jimmy LaValle further cultivated an introspective, expansive style of tranquil electronica, but the discs' longer running times and LaValle's drab vocals left them sounding somewhat dull and conventional. Into the Blue Again hasn't completely licked the problem -- the weakest tracks bear unfavorable comparison to the sort of airy soundscapes you hear while shopping at yuppie home stores. LaValle gets across his highly melodic sentiments strongest when he lets the keyboards and drum machines do the talking for him. "Red-Eye" captures the sleepless Twilight Zone surrealism of a late-night flight, mixing anxiety with strange beauty. Later, on "Wishful Thinking," the interplay between a slow, mournful violin and a stately piano -- a LaValle one-two specialty -- eloquently dissects romantic melancholy. LaValle doesn't need to supply any words; you can fill in the emotional blanks well enough yourself.
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