Indie greats pair up on 'Perils From The Sea'

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The inner teenaged hipster in all of us rejoiced when it was announced that Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf and Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, were joining forces on a collaborative project.

As mainstays of the emotive indie movement of the early ’00s, in addition to the massive catalog that both Kozelek and LaValle have built, hopes rose high during the project’s year-and-a-half incubation period. When you bring two storytellers of the highest form together, the product will either be disastrous or brilliant, either the product of conflicting styles or true collaboration.

Thankfully, Perils From The Sea falls into the latter category.
From the album’s outset, it’s evident that the electronic sensibilities LaValle incorporated into Album Leaf work well with Kozelek’s downtrodden and lethargic folk crooning.

Opener “What Happened To My Brother” kicks off with a sparse drum machine pattern and tinkling synth tones while Kozelek mumbles along, eventually building his vocal lines into the driving force behind the melody. It’s a great example of Kozelek’s longstanding vocal dynamics, which have been a key element in his massive catalog.

“He Always Felt Like Dancing” stands out as some of the best production on the record, with LaValle matching a bell-sampled synth to Kozelek’s vocal line and one of the most moving chord progressions shifting the mood of the song around its halfway mark. LaValle’s production is incredibly stark, as most Album Leaf works are, where the negative space in between notes or percussive hits is almost as important as the instrumentation itself. While it’s a pared-down track, Kozelek and LaValle prove that the approach to a song is more important than the tools you use to construct its arrangement.

It’s nice to hear Kozelek spit back at detractors on “By The Time I Awoke,” in which he holds a sly middle finger up to those who doubted him. “By The Time I Awoke” is the most linear example of Kozelek’s storytelling on the album, and it’s just as visceral as anything off of Red House Painters’ Songs For A Blue Guitar.

Perils From The Sea is a long-form album with most songs clocking in around the 7- or 8-minute mark, but like most Album Leaf productions, the songs don’t drag on so much as they paint a picture. There’s nothing about Kozelek’s storytelling that’s out of place — he’s arguably more of a post-folk auteur on Perils From The Sea than he has been over the span of his solo career.

This record is for those who lavished praise on the Postal Service’s seminal Give Up, a landmark indie album not just for the collaboration between Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello and Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, but also for the angular approach to both artists’ crafts. Kozelek and LaValle put a decidedly darker spin on that formula, but here’s to hoping that this could be our generation’s Give Up.

If Perils From The Sea is anything, however, it’s dynamic and instantly appealing to fans of both artists.


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