Sea Wolf | White Water, White Bloom (Dangerbird)

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cd_sea-wolf.gifI'll have to admit, I don't find Church's voice to be especially strong.







I'm what you'd call a part-time Sea Wolf fan. When they come up on my iTunes, I listen and enjoy them; I don't, however, seek them out. Lucky for Sea Wolf, I recently got a new laptop. For months, I had all of four albums imported, including this new one by Sea Wolf. So I got to know it pretty well.

Disc opener "Wicked Blood" is a fun and bouncy song, instantly inviting. Primary Sea Wolf Alex Church sets an upbeat, jaunty tone, in direct opposition to the dark nature of the song's title. "Dew in the Grass" is slower, simpler; it's almost too much of a slowdown following the toe-tapping intro...until you hit track three, which brings the momentum to a screeching halt. (I'm sorry, "Orion & Dog" and "Turn the Dirt Over," but you just don't hold my fleeting interest.)

"O Maria!" therefore comes as quite the welcome visitor. It's everything its predecessors weren't; where the previous few songs whimpered, "O Maria!" declares itself with a snarl. The instrumentation is harder, faster, louder, causing Church's voice to rise above the fray, stretching his range.

I'll have to admit, I don't find Church's voice to be especially strong. For the most part, he knows how to use it, presenting himself as a lovelorn guy-with-an acoustic-guitar who piles on enough extra instrumentation—strings, keys and more—to push him out of the singer-songwriter genre and into indie pop/folk.

The title track feels like a traditional, one of those timeless, tired songs that's been a part of the musical lexicon forever. Up next, "Spirit Horse" lifts me. It's not fast-paced, its rhythm is steady, and yet something resonates. Following the folky "The Orchard" (which I skipped), "The Traitor" is another example of how indie-chamber-pop-y Church can be when he tries. This one seems destined for overplaying on your neighborhood college radio station. It's pleasant enough, but again, the rhythm is too steady; there's no variety. And with the melancholy, unremarkable "Winter's Heir," it's over.

Bottom line? I'm still just a part-time Sea Wolf fan. B- | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Nick Drake, Bonnie "Prince" Billy

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