Sea Wolf: Song Spells No. 1: Cedarsmoke- The first in a series, Sea Wolf‘s new album Song Spells No.1: Cedarsmoke proves a successful start for the sole singer/songwriter project. California native and singer Alex Church decided to forgo working with a record label with this last release and turned to his fans instead to fund a stripped-down album that recalls the close and familiar sounds of his earlier work. Free from the expectations of a label, Church moved in the opposite direction of previous album Old World Romance and its unexpected risks as he returns to his acoustic roots. Although the album may not be any thing experimental, Church sounds comfortable and confident in this truthful sounding stop on Sea Wolf’s musical journey.
The album leads us in with cello and keyboard notes settling over shaking maracas and samples of a thunderstorm in ‘Intro’ until we’re met by Church’s gravelly voice in ‘Rams Head.’ Sweet lyrics about love’s warmth crackling in front of a fire place float along the melody Church tailors with his emotive voice until the shakers come on again in this almost entirely acoustic track and a cuteness fumes off like smoke.
The fourth song on the album ‘Bavarian Porcelain’ achieves a Broken Bells quality with “ooh”s strung through gypsy-folk guitar and a building rhythm that crashes into a catchy chorus before settling on a stream of instrumentals. ‘Cedarsmoke’ begins with a sound like bouncing wood chips as eerie strings and storm sounds cloud into ‘Young Bodies’ where Church’s voice comes on so clearly you can almost see the furrow of his brow and quiver of his lip as he sings so plain and effectively.
The album picks up in energy with ‘The Water’s Wide’ where Church echoes the album’s essence singing “I don’t wanna leave here now/Now that I’ve found my legs somehow,” channeling the comfort we hear in his effortless crone as it skips along the jumble of punk-inspired screeches, instrumentals, and quick percussion. The folk vibe of ‘White Woods’ recall Sea Wolf’s Leaves in the River while the baritone and soprano backing vocals plus the jambalaya of instruments make this track sound like a cleaner Arcade Fire song but the fun stops in the next ‘Whatever You Say, Say Nothing’ where Church’s vocals sound pungently sad, like those of an inexplicably more depressed Elliot Smith, with only rain sounds and soft guitar to enhance it. However, the last song “Visions” makes up for the loss of production value in the previous song. With a flow of string led instrumentals to lead us out as they led us in, a beat breaks out of melancholy and hopeful sounds that results in a thrash of finale-fitting grooves.
Sea Wolf’s regression towards a simpler acoustic sound should appeal to the crafted tastes of his longtime listeners while inviting new ones to discover him in folky glory. Song Spells No.1: Cedarsmoke is available on streaming sites like Spotify as well as the project’s site for a “pay-what-you-want” digital download. So get the first of this album series and follow Sea Wolf as the artist attempts to entrance you with more of his song spells…7.5/10
‘The Water’s Wide’