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CD of The Week

Week of 3/23/20

    Sea Wolf - Through A Dark Wood (Dangerbird)

    After scrapping a whole album's worth of material, Sea Wolf singer Alex Brown Church decided to move on to other projects. This resulted in a film score for the independent movie Julia Blue. That experience led to a creative reawakening, which in turn led to Through A Dark Wood, a cinematic collection of 11 songs that each tell their own stories. Produced largely on his own and with the addition of newfound skills (a palatial string quartet can be heard throughout), Church concocted an album with many peaks and valleys that still manages to hold on to the sanguine values of Sea Wolf's earlier work.

    The opening instrumental "Forward" leads into the textural "Blood Pact," a song that deals with both feelings of regret and the need to right the wrongs of one's past, even if it may be too late. "Break It Down" comes next and is a very interesting listen. Starting off with a distorted guitar riff, what could have progressed into a more aggressive sound instead delves further into the atmosphere with a layer of synthesizers and live strings that paints a wide and beautiful portrait. Church then leaves it to the lyrics to pick up where the heaviness of the opening riff left off (this is, after all, a breakup song).

    Musical contrasts are a constant narrative on the album. "Fear of Failure" features a quiet electric guitar, an upbeat acoustic guitar, and the comforting sounds of a string quartet, all of which culminate nicely with the rest of the rhythm section by the time the chorus kicks in. Similar structures are heard throughout ("Fear of Failure" and "Under The Spell Again" are two standouts) and are prime examples of cinematic thinking applied to songwriting.

    "Frank O'Hara," possibly the best song on the album, sees Church using the legendary poet as a composite character for himself and his own questions about communication in a relationship. You can hear the emotional desperation in his voice as he sings, "Frank O'Hara / Standing in the subway / What would you have written? / Would words have even been enough?" Do yourself a favor and listen to the song with headphones on to really immerse yourself in the layered production.

    Time, both away and spent on other projects, can oftentimes lead to a newfound appreciation. It seems that formula worked in regards to Church and Sea Wolf's latest offering.

    Review by Keith Obaza

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