It takes a true virtuoso to make a handful of chord changes sound like a complex musical arrangement. In the Album Leaf's case, it is layers of piano, organ, strings, and gently galloping beats. Jimmy LaValle (Tristeza, the Locust, Black Heart Procession) has been playing music since he was 4 years old; he formed the Album Leaf in 1999. Into the Blue Again, his latest collection of galactic folk rock, widens the breadth of what Album Leaf fans have come to expect but without taking any risky attempts to redefine itself. Unfortunately, the album's opener, "The Light," is less a booming kickoff than it is a shanked punt: A ginger keyboard melody slowly emerges from a swelling synth wave before spiraling off into space. The rest of the record holds together a little better. Songs like "See in You" and "Into the Sea" follow the standard (yet satisfying) Album Leaf formula interwoven guitar and organ melodies rhythmically backed by electronic crackles, live drums, or both. Tracks that feature his modest vocal talents ("Always for You," "Writing on the Wall," and "Wherever I Go") are structured more like conventional pop songs but with a more defined verse, chorus, and bridge. Still, Into the Blue Again is the Album Leaf doing what it does best, sonically progressing without straying too far from form.
The Album Leaf joins the Lybmyc Systym and the Postmarks on Thursday, October 26, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10 to $12. Call 561-832-9999, or visit www.respectablestreet.com.