Review : Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom
AllmusicSea Wolf emerged in 2007 as a tuneful alternative to Bright Eyes, with both bands championing a mix of tremulous vocals and sharp, Americana-styled songwriting. White Water, White Bloom doesn't do much to dispel those similarities, but it does widen the band's sound, with bandleader Alex Church carefully splitting his time between the organic and the orchestral. Church wrote the entire album alone, yet all ten tracks feature contributions from an army of musicians, including several members of Sea Wolf's touring lineup. With producer Mike Mogis (one of the chief architects of Bright Eyes' sound) behind the boards, White Water evokes a lush, chamber-country ambiance, sounding intimate one minute and grandly expansive the next. At the center of everything is Church's attention to melody, which shines as brightly on the album's sparsest songs -- "Orion & Dog," "The Orchard," "Winter's Heir" -- as on the more bombastic numbers. Even so, it's the fully orchestrated material that makes the biggest impact. Church and Mogis lace their autumnal anthems with strings, organs, woodwinds, and clash cymbals, creating mini-symphonies that leave their mark but rarely overstay their welcome. The resulting tunes are lush, but few are truly dense, and White Water's biggest asset is its ability to wield such a large sound without replacing the woodsy, cozy feel of Church's solo performances....full text
AltpressOn his darkly enigmatic 2007 debut, Leaves In The River, Sea Wolf principle Alex Brown Church constructed an eerie musical landscape, all twisted branches of folk instrumentation overlapping with his literarily inclined character pieces. Songs like "Winter Windows," with its spooky pump-organ riff, effected a gnarled mythology that chilled as well as it beguiled. Sea Wolf's second effort, now realized by a more traditional band lineup brought together during a few years of touring behind his previous record, extends the reach of Church's pastoral folk sketches. Cello, organ and acoustic guitar lay down the type of thick, swampy orchestral folk you might expect from the house band playing the gothic pub on the edge of a haunted bog. Church's vocals push through the swirling fog of the abundant string swells in hushed resignation, laying out his tales of woe like a wandering minstrel on the downtrodden "Orion & Dog" and "Turn The Dirt Over." The latter, with its country-music affectations, is the spiritual descendent of Leaves. Which isn't to say there's no fun to be had; "O Maria!" is a fiery, stomping piano blast. But "The Orchard," with its cascade of plucked strings and minimal organ coloring, is more emblematic. In its rhythms, arrangements and lyrical scope, it may resemble country music at times, but it's the type of country where the sun hasn't come out in months and the immediate forecast doesn't look too promising either. (DANGERBIRD) Luke O'Neil...full text
PitchforkL.A.-based pop-rockers Sea Wolf snagged a spot on the soundtrack for the newest Twilight film, New Moon, and while the band's inclusion certainly didn't cause as much of a stir as that of, say, Thom Yorke or Grizzly Bear, appearing on the chart-topping compilation may prove to be a bigger boon to this group's career than to any of the other acts that participated. That's not just because the soundtrack is selling well and getting Sea Wolf's name out to the listening public in general, but more because the kind of person who is most likely to be voraciously devouring the album is also exceedingly susceptible to becoming smitten with the rest of Sea Wolf's oeuvre-- specifically, young people (mostly girls) with a weakness for moody romance and natural imagery. Should any of these Twilight acolytes be compelled by Sea Wolf's New Moon offering, "The Violet Hour", to seek out the band's newest album, White Water, White Bloom, they'll be welcomely rewarded with a collection of swoony, melodic songs delivered with aching sincerity by lead singer and songwriter Alex Brown Church, and featuring more sighingly idealized poetic images and symbols than you can shake a stick at-- orchards in the snow, morning dew, constellations, and "a pheasant's feather," just to name a few.
Presumably, anyone a bit older and perhaps musically savvier will hear Sea Wolf and immediately recognize that, sonically at least, they've already heard this all before from Bright Eyes and the Arcade Fire, as White Water, White Bloom, the band's second full-length LP (and first as a proper band and not simply a solo endeavor for Church), breaks no new ground. Opener "Wicked Blood" bites the Arcade Fire's exact aesthetic (chugging guitars, swelling strings, quavering vocals, simple but weighty piano melody) to an almost litigious extent, and while the remainder of the album is perhaps not quite as egregious, virtually every song is blatantly beholden to something that's going to be incredibly familiar to any halfway-avid fan of indie-rock. "Orion & Dog", "The Orchard", and the title track are the cuts most overtly indebted to Conor Oberst (particularly from a vocal standpoint), but Sea Wolf actually pillages inspiration from throughout the entire family tree of literate folk-rock, echoing not only Oberst mentors like Tom Petty ("Turn the Dirt Over") and R.E.M. (the intro to the title track) but even the granddaddies of the form, the Byrds, on the album-closing "Winter's Heir"....full text
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