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Forward/Return is the latest release from Jimmy LaValle‘s long-running The Album Leaf, and its title couldn’t be more apt. Starting off as a strictly one-man instrumental-only project, it soon grew into a regular band, and vocals started to become more prominent. Forward/Return finds LaValle fine-tuning his distinctive, lovely sound, while pairing back the vocal element that seemed to dilute the specialness of his music. If he’s been nothing else, he’s been a master at making mellow, quiet, hushed melodies. Songs like “Descent” and “Low Down” bring out the guitars for a gentle rock, while “Skylines” and “Images” are rooted in his ambient roots. And for those who enjoyed the trend of vocals, don’t fret; “Under the Night” is a fine, slightly bluesy number, which is enhanced by some great harmonies. Its lyrics of “I’m starting over again,” coupled with this EP’s title might make wonder if this Forward/Return is a “reset” for LaValle. No matter, though; it’s a fine record from a fine, underrated band.
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