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Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 8
Production 8.75
Creativity 9.25
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 88%
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Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (10/23/09)
Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom
Record Label: Dangerbird
Release Date: September 22, 2009

Alex Church, formerly of Los Angeles-based indie-rock outfit Irving, formed Sea Wolf in 2003 as an outlet for songs he wrote that didn't fit his band's style. Our first introduction to Church's new creations came on the 2007 EP Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low, with the full-length Leaves in the River dropping later that year. Given the moniker for his new project and his choice of album titles, it's no surprise that nature is a major theme in his songs, and the music's lush orchestration, with layers of strings, provides the perfect folky feel.

With his latest release White Water, White Bloom, Church picks up right where he left off. "Wicked Blood" opens the album, and it's a jangly indie-rock tune that's pretty straightforward, keeping the grave-sounding strings mostly in the background (for now). There's a distinct romantic baroque-pop vibe, a la The Decemberists, in "Dew in the Grass," which also contains some of the heaviest, menacing guitars on the album. I'd classify it as a better-executed example of what Meloy and company were shooting for with The Hazards of Love, an album that I know a lot of people loved, but for which I can't proclaim the same feeling.

Often, Church's vocals have an almost Conor Oberst-like fragility, and the quavery warble makes an appearance on "Orion and Dog," an acoustic guitar-led folk piece. He sounds more assured, but mournful, on the pastoral "Turn the Dirt Over," the mood of which is reinforced by the cello gliding along the bottom, and he's more strident still on the more aggressive rocker "O Maria!," a song that retains Sea Wolf's orchestral bent but is more uptempo and has a more prominent drum stomp than we've heard thus far, somewhat along the lines of The Dear Hunter.

"White Water, White Bloom" continues with Sea Wolf's bucolic imagery and seems to demonstrate Church finding a sense of spirituality while among the elements, and this is also illustrated in the track that follows it, "Spirit Horse," which manages to be simultaneously earthy and ethereal. While all of the songs on White Water, White Bloom possess meticulously crafted melodies, "Spirit Horse" is arguably the most memorable of the bunch.

The warm Bright Eyes touch returns on the peacefully rustic "The Orchard," a tender ballad on which Church sweetly delivers the line "everything I need is written on your face," amid the usual images of plants, animals, and celestial bodies. The sprightly arrangement and pacing of "The Traitor" belies its darker subject matter, but the sullen moment is fleeting, as it makes way for the startlingly beautiful closer "Winter's Heir."

Pretty much my only complaint with the album-- and it's a small one at that-- is that there isn't anything as overtly Eastern European as "Winter Windows," the DeVotchKa-styled standout from Leaves in the River. Still, the string arrangements are used to evoke a variety of textures, never as brooding as Murder by Death or excessively precious, but covering most of the ground in between. What's most impressive and notable about White Water, White Bloom is that just about every track sounds like a perfect indie-rock single-- you can hum along with just about all of it by your second listen-- but with each successive spin, there's still much to discover within the album's layers. Whether or not any of these songs earn spots on commercials, like "You're a Wolf" did, is immaterial. With White Water, White Bloom, Church has demonstrated that he's much more than simply a writer of made-for-TV jingles, and deserves mention among indie-rock's heavyweights.

Recommended If You LikeSea Wolf's Leaves in the River
Mariage Blanc's Broken Record
Paper Rival's Dialog
Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
The Decemberists' The Hazards of Love

Track Listing1. Wicked Blood (4:25)
2. Dew in the Grass (4:24)
3. Orion and Dog (3:49)
4. Turn the Dirt Over (2:59)
5. O Maria! (4:00)
6. White Water, White Bloom (4:29)
7. Spirit Horse (3:53)
8. The Orchard (3:26)
9. The Traitor (4:17)
10. Winter's Heir (4:20)
Displaying posts 1 - 6 of 6
04:22 PM on 10/23/09
Keagan Ilvonen
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Keagan Ilvonen's Avatar
Another fucking awesome record.
05:37 PM on 10/23/09
my blood flows harshly
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IntoTheSun's Avatar
I love this band...this album is definitely on my "must check out" list.
05:10 AM on 10/24/09
You're not real musician!
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introduction's Avatar
must check this album out. another great review! the reviews page seems to be full of yours today.
06:50 AM on 10/24/09
Travis Parno
my sensible heart
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Travis Parno's Avatar
how does this compare to Leaves in the River? i found that one quite boring.
03:54 PM on 11/03/09
Neo Cassady
Let's go exploring!
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Neo Cassady's Avatar
Had no clue this was coming out. Loved Leaves in the River, so I'll definitely check this out.
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