Reviews:: Sea Wolf Leaves in the River

Alex Church made a huge splash with his debut EP - GET TO THE RIVER BEFORE IT RUNS TOO LOW - and music lovers (and the Rock Insider) fell in love with his lush arrangements and floating melodies. The 5-songs (and the leaked Middle Distance River) had everyone geeked up for the full length.

Well, it showed up in my mailbox and I gave it an immediate listen. My first reaction? Church built on the success of the EP nicely. All too often, when an artist releases an EP before the record, they waste their best songs and are left having to rehash the same old songs or with a sub par record. Leaves in the River - an efficient packaging of ten songs, only one of which was on the EP - shows Church has an ever growing catalog of impressive tracks.

The opening track - Leaves In The River - uses slow drawn strings, reverbed oohs and aah and a simple electric riff to set the tone. It's the type of song that would be playing in a film that starts with a typical morning in the suburbs. The flowers waking up, the paper boy driving on his bike and the lawn sprinklers pulsing in unison. As the song shifts, Church sings over a squeaky acoustic riff and the storyteller scene is completed. Over the full 5-minutes, a piano, strings and shakers make an appearance, but only as a compliment to Church's voice.

In a word, the song is comforting, but it's the interesting gypsy tinged accordion batting leadoff on Winter Windows that really jump starts the record, and as a result, Church vocals come across with a sense of urgency. The strings balance off the track, but the interesting dynamic of the swirling textures and hand claps are a welcome addition to his song writing repertoire.

For me, Church's appeal is how easily he gets you focused on his narrative. Black Dirt uses some spacey effects and strings to peak your interest, before jumping into a driving rhythm and it's this pace and transition that draws you into his lyrics. You get caught up in the song, waiting to hear what he has to say. The shuffling pace of Middle Distance Runner (the flushed out drum machine addition sounds great) compliment Church's admissions perfectly. He paints a picture of a man who acknowledges his relationships will eventually fail; a man who wants to make the effort and have the strength to keep the relationship going, but just can't. I could listen to this song over and over and over ... and unlike the protagonist, never get tired. I like the retro feel of Song for the Dead, but the highlight of the last half of the record is the pseudo sea shanty ballad, Black Leaf Falls. Church's lyrics are so inviting, you feel like you are a part of his tales (or are reading his diary).

The biggest change I hear with the project, is that every song is flushed out, layered and produced. The Cold, The Dark & The Silence uses a plethora of sounds (maybe a few too many in this specific case) but you really get the feeling that Church takes pride in his work and wants to make each song perfect. He bookends the LP nicely, as the tempo and arrangement of Neutral Ground paints another cinematic soundscape. As the notes fade to black, it you are going to want to play Leaves in the River to death.

MP3:: You're A Wolf

Sea Wolf comes to town on Oct 07, 2007 @ the Media Club.

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