Album Review: The Speed Of Sound In Seawater—”First Contact”

speedofsoundBy Al Janusis

The stylistic shift that occurs on The Speed of Sound in Seawater’s debut LP, First Contact, is not without precedence. Nearly four years ago, they released the Blue Version EP, full of tapping guitars, Damien Verrett’s euphonious anxiety-touched voice, and a lively rhythm section providing a satisfying bottom end. These elements are just as present on First Contact, only now they haveve been modified to fit a cohesive whole that’s more readily palatable.

The easily digestibledirection they have taken on this record is not a wholly lamentable one in execution so much as it is plain to see that they are following behind larger acts such as Maps & Atlases or Tera Melos who havetaken this route before.

Songs like “The Macrabray” or “Kid Ghost II” stand out for Jordan Seavers’s delightful voice. But what makes these tracks worthy of praise is their diligence in incorporating new ideas while making them sound like natural extensions. The woodwind and string sections, the plinking xylophone, and accompanying piano throughout much of “The Macrabray” are brilliantly arranged. None of them stand out more than the others, and closing the track with spiraling guitars and wavering vocals returns you to familiar territory.

If all the songs on this record were as self-sustained as “The Macrabray”, then I would not complain. What is bothersome is that the material on whole is either interesting enough to be noticed or dull, sounding like established prior bands.

The Speed of Sound in Seawater’s decision to move their sound in a more mainstream direction is understandable in a sense, given their evolution and increasingly poppier sensibilities. Yet many groupshave done it before. Instead of one strike, it becomes two.

There are points in this record that point toward the direction they could have taken. A song such as “Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust”, one that is reminiscent of their earlier records yet still retains the forward movement. If the songs were as consistent as this and the aforementioned ones, then my lasting impression of this record wouldn’t be as mixed as it is. Instead, I’m left with a mild frustration at what could have been.

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