The thing is, while the album has a low-key sound, there’s an insistent undercurrent. The melodies, the lush, moody keyboards, the heavily syncopated drumming—it gets in there. Like a lot of (mostly) instrumental music, it works well as reading music, and while I would occasionally find myself listening on headphones on the train while reading, a riff or beat would grab my attention, causing me to play it back, repeatedly. That’s the secret power of Between Waves—on the surface, it appears innocuous, but it can often be gorgeous and damn near impossible to get out of your brain.
It is immediately noticeable how the lithe and jittery “False Dawn” opens Between Waves in a starkly different mood a decade on from how Into the Blue Again awoke delicately with “The Light” (a song now permanently etched into the brains of fans of the US television show Scandal). “False Dawn”, like many of the songs on the record, emphasizes pulsing percussion, building momentum in tandem with atmospheric layers. The muscular meditation “New Soul” introduces an unhurried hip hop beat to their tried-and-true Rhodes piano and synth-led ambience. Twin centerpieces “Back to the Start” and “Wandering Still” show melodic flashes of The Album Leaf’s earliest promise without the feeling of looking back.
Though it is too easy to pin descriptors like “reenergized” on artists who have been around long enough to grow and diversify with time, the sense of focus and physicality on Between Waves is clear enough. This incarnation of The Album Leaf asserts the resilience that has always held up their sentimental exterior.