Noise Pop Review: The Album Leaf, Vákoum, Indy Nyles at Swedish American Hall, 2/23/18

by Natalia Perez on February 25, 2018

All Photos by Natalia Perez

I’ll start by telling you that I have The Album Leaf’s emblem tattooed on the inside of my right wrist.  Let’s just say, my love for their music runs deep, and my respect for them as musicians is significant. I’ve been able to see them perform live several times over the years, each time special and important to me – and Friday night’s show was everything I wanted. From the opening acts until the last note of “Lights” at the end of the evening, it was intimate, emotionally powerful, and beautifully passionate.

Beginning the evening was Indy Nyles, with a compact-but-complex set up on a table in front of the stage. It was an interesting dynamic to be on the same level as the performer, with no barrier to audience members seeing every cord connected, each individual button and key selected.  I was impressed with his ability to capture the audience’s attention, forming a quiet energy while building and layering the arcs of his music.

After creating an atmosphere, he introduced driving rhythms and intricate layers to create a well-textured, pleasing set. I thought he was a perfect opener for the night, introducing the genre of sounds we would be wrapped in for the rest of the evening. I would be interested in hearing a longer set from him in the future, and I would love to see what kind of visuals he imagines to potentially accompany his work.


Vákoum performed next – two incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists who showed versatility in their vocals and instrumentation. Both women had ethereal and expressive voices – deftly alternating between breathy softness and strong, powerful bursts of melody. In those moments of strength, their voices showed great control, but also something hinting at an edge of recklessness that I found captivating and different.

The lights were very low during their set. Both performers bathed in a soft blue light and surrounded by shadows.  For me, the absence of extra light illuminating their every move allowed me to focus on the soundscape that was being created.  Instead of using my eyes to anticipate where the melody might be headed, it was easier to be present, allowing the feelings of the sounds to take over.

Before The Album Leaf took the stage, the lights dimmed and the beginning layers of foundation for their music started low, allowing me and the rest of the audience to transition from the upbeat tunes playing during the break in between sets. They opened with “Wet The Day” and within the first few notes, I had a rush of memories.

Their songs have been crucial emotional components to significant times in my life: finding love, deciding to move to San Francisco, rediscovering my love of photography, losing love.  I can’t tell you how many times my broken heart has been pieced back together by “Red Eye” on repeat. Or how many late nights I spent driving through the desert with the windows down, volume turned up, and One Day I’ll Be On Time playing while I tried to figure out who I was.

Friday’s performance included so many of my close friends – “The MP,” “Shine,” “Another Day,” and “Vermillion” to name a few – and when my time allowed to photograph the set was over, I put my camera away and stayed at the front of the stage. It felt like many of us in the audience had every note memorized – everyone having their own memories stirred as the band played through their set. We moved along with the music, creating subtle waves that would increase in intensity at transitions, crashing down together as the familiar songs played on.  

At the end of the evening, The Album Leaf’s founder, Jimmy LaValle, lightheartedly commented about how he doesn’t really talk much at these things, even after all these years of touring.  But when you’ve created music that can communicate emotion as adeptly as they have – that says more than words ever could.

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