Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Dangerbird Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
The xxCoexist[Young Turks; 2012]By Will Ryan; September 14, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIt's been three years since The xx's eponymous debut. It's a significant portion of time for a group that seems so involved with the emotional repercussions of age and maturity. On xx, singers Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim were reciting lines they'd been writing since they were fifteen.
“I’m still the impostor / With my suitcase on the floor,” muses Alex Brown Church. Evidently, Sea Wolf’s lead vocalist harbors seriously mixed feelings about coming home to California, where his third release, Old World Romance, was recorded. The album delves into the restless soul of a traveler, one who constantly oscillates between an innate wanderlust and re-embracing the familiarity left behind long ago.
With third album Old World Romance, Sea Wolf bandleader Alex Church collapses the collaborative full-band approach of 2009's White Water, White Bloom, opting this time to write, record, and produce the album on his own and play most of the instruments himself. The result isn't an isolated-sounding album, or even an especially insular one, but Old World Romance does have a sense of singular perspective that goes back to the earliest incarnations of the band when Church operated Sea Wolf mostly as a solo project ornamented sometimes by other players. Rather than a live-band feel in a folk-rock mode, the songs rely more on drum machines and ornate recording arrangements, dropping live drums in and out of perfectly paced acoustic landscapes.
New is overrated. Both in the frenetically trend-cycling province of indie rock and the world as a whole, the novel and unfamiliar can often initially appear to be more exciting and challenging than that which seems based in already-explored territory. After a while, however, that buzz band or new trend starts to seem sillier and sillier while familiar themes and questions are repeating themselves and demanding attention.
“If I could surround you with beautiful sounds, I will / If I, if I could repay you for coming to save me, I will / If I, if I could be who you want me to be, I will / If I, if I could surround you with beautiful sounds, I will, I will, I will.” That’s Alex Brown Church on the chorus of “Miracle Cure” with what has got to be the most telling lyric on his band Sea Wolf’s third full-length, Old World Romance. Make no mistake — there are plenty of valid problems to be had with Romance, but a lack of earnestness sure isn’t one. Church put a lot of work into this record, and to suggest otherwise would be unfairly belittling.
This review originally ran in AP 291. Alex Brown Church has been eerily consistent in Sea Wolf. All three albums are 10 tracks long and each clocks in somewhere between 37 and 40 minutes. The songs are quiet indie-folk shuffles never shorter than three minutes and rarely more than four, with vague lyrics destined to be almost heard in the background of a CW drama or car commercial.