Seahaven - Winter Forever
Record Label: Run For Cover
Release Date: November 8, 2011
It isn’t hard to be a passing fancy in music these days. Getting a song that catches on or writing a darling first EP and making a splash isn’t exactly something to applaud. It’s the work that comes after that first sense of getting your toes in the water that defines a band. The continuation of success, however moderate or humble, is what characterizes a band’s work ethic and it tells us, the listeners, whether the band has it in them to go a long way. Whether they have “it.”
For Los Angeles’ Seahaven, the next step of work is taking a good seven-song EP, improving on it, tightening the nuts and bolts, and coming out with a better LP. Now, in this case, the change isn’t very great – going from 7 tracks and 28 minutes to 10 tracks and 37 minutes isn’t exactly a huge leap forward. But writing 10 new songs and getting them to adhere to each other as well as the tracks on the Ghost EP did certainly comes with its fair share of difficulty.
Luckily for Seahaven, Winter Forever, its first full-length album, is a success in that sense. The record’s first three tracks – perhaps its strongest sequence – successfully snap the listener into attention at the album’s kickoff. “Goodnight” has already been heard in an acoustic format, but the full band version turns out to be a treat. Vocalist Kyle Soto starts a trend of memorable choruses when he sings: “I won’t feel a thing if you don’t / Feel what I feel and you’ll find faith to believe in God / God I need you, because I am familiar with the Devil / I’ve been waiting for the sun to come and dry up all this rain, but I’m caught out in the storm.”
Soto’s lyricism is just like that throughout the album – cutting, introspective and without too much self. He might be singing about himself and he might not be, but the fact doesn’t change that anyone can go along with his oddly melodious lines. The other two songs in that beginning trio, “It’s Over” and “Slowdown,” embody Seahaven’s knack for seemingly accidental hooks. It’s obvious that this quartet isn’t trying to be a pop band; they aren’t trying to overload the sugar by any means. Those hooks just happen, and when they surface up properly, they’re almost ridiculously on point. The stop-and-go rhythm of “Slowdown” might be the epitome of that.
Despite Seahaven’s natural foray into balanced levels of Brand New or Crime In Stereo-influenced indie punk and poppy undertones, not everything on Winter Forever gives off flashes of greatness. There are some missteps, and the album definitely bleeds together at times – a pretty big negative considering there are only 10 songs. “Save Me” is questionable at points, but that could stem from it coming after another highlight in the musically heavier “Black & White.” The acoustic “Honey Bee” is also another lapse, this one coming at a bad time in the eighth slot. It slows down any momentum built up from the fantastic “Understanding,” which is the undisputed album standout. Winter Forever ends on a solid note in closer “PV,” yet another track on the laundry list of songs where Seahaven turns an irregular melody into something soothing.
Winter Forever definitely lacks something, in the end. It’s an extremely solid record and, with the exception of “Honey Bee,” has notable consistency – a point I was looking for Seahaven to match from the holistic Ghost EP. But listening to this album just doesn't feel like an experience. It doesn't grasp me without letting go – it doesn’t make me turn off everything around me and want to get lost. That feeling is there in spurts, like in the strong early sequence and again in various songs, but it’s not there in regards to the full full-length – at least not yet. Comparing Winter Forever to a peer band’s recent debut with Balance & Composure’s Separation, there’s something in Seahaven’s sound that is leaving a void. There is some great songwriting on this album, and Kyle Soto’s voice is one of those that is so effortlessly unique and wonderful, it doesn’t even seem like he knows it at times. But there’s just a tiny punch missing in the equation.
When a band makes its first record, a sort of blind faith and, in some ways, a sense of naivety goes into it. It’s not that Seahaven doesn’t know what it’s doing – quite the contrary is true, I’m sure – but it’s that they probably don’t realize just how good they are at it yet. So, while Winter Forever definitely won’t be this band’s opus, how good they become in the future will be determined (again) by how well they can handle moderate success (which this record should find them) and how closely they can continue to match the infectious passion that makes Winter Forever so breathtaking at times.
Might as well make this point up front since a 7 will probably seem like a shitty score to the whole world: I do like this record quite a bit. Some of the songs are fantastic. Please read the words as well as the numbers. Or don't. Whatever.
definitely got me biting my nails for this one. the "grasping and losing yourself" aspect of albums are what seperates the best from the good; and i wanted nothing more from this album than the best of the best. guess i'll find out tomorrow.