CD Review of Leaves in the River by Sea Wolf
Recommended if you like
The Shins, Arcade Fire, The Kinks
Label
Dangerbird Records
Sea Wolf:
Leaves in the River

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

S
ea Wolf arrive on the indie rock scene from Los Angeles’ Silverlake district, where singer/songwriter Alex Brown Church honed his skills at the well-known Spaceland club. The band takes its name from the Jack London novel of the same title and the music contains the restless urgency that many of London’s characters are known for.

Lead single “You’re a Wolf” has a catchy yet smooth groove, with Church sounding like he’s channeling a bit of the Kinks’ Ray Davies. The song blends analog synths with acoustic and electric guitars to create a tight, layered effect. There’s also some nice cello in the background propelling the track. Church says the song is about “walking down this street and longing to be somewhere else… It’s about realizing where you should be, and the sudden urgency of the need to get there.” The song makes you want to enjoy the ride.

“Winter Windows” is similar, with more of the analog synths, all too rare in today’s digital music world. The overall Sea Wolf sound is reminiscent of the Shins, but a touch darker. “Black Dirt” continues the vibe -- the groove is tight but still sort of laid back.

“Rose Captain,” “Middle Distance Runner,” and “Black Leaf Falls” are mellower, tunes that would go well with a late night and/or contemplative mood. The melodies are delicate and the instrumentation sparse, with the piano on “Black Leaf Falls” recalling some Beatle-esque vibes.

The cello is prominent again on “Song for the Dead,” adding an appropriately maudlin vibe, but a steady beat keeps the song and the album moving. The same is true of “The Cold, the Dark and the Silence,” another mid-tempo tune where Brown’s voice glides above the atmospheric sounds. “Neutral Ground” ends the album on the moody vibe, as Sea Wolf seems to fade into the night.

The overall production on the album is sparse but precise -- the instruments mesh well and the arrangements are clearly well thought out. There’s definitely talent here, but the musical direction is a bit schizophrenic. Sea Wolf have toured with rocking label mates the Silver Sun Pickups, but whether Brown and Sea Wolf want to rock or chill is hard to tell.

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