The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea Release Date: March 21, 2006
Record Label: Merge Records
Rather than letting slick, fulfilling pop music become passé, a Brooklyn band has decided to bring back the glory days with a completely new outlook on life. The Essex Green, with their third full-length release, Cannibal Sea, long to return to the days of The Beatles, sparkling duets, and those ever-flattering bowl haircuts (which seem to have made a resurgence lately).
Before listening to Cannibal Sea, you ought to put away any prior conceptions of retro-founded music and listen with two open ears. You will likely miss the nuances of the free-flowing pop melodies the first time around, and the album certainly merits consistent play. Whether the refreshing lilt of a flute on "Snakes in the Grass" or the folk-twang of "This Isn't Farm Life," The Essex Green have unearthed some unconventional deliveries for a genre in danger of running stale. The multitalented instrumentalists slash their way through 12 blissful pop gems, stopping here and there for a brief rest before charging onward flanked by lilting flute melodies and a sunny ambience guaranteed to make the Beach Boys jealous. The bouncy "Rue de Lis" bears mention as well for its soothing hooks, despite lacking a typically glossy finish. "Rabbit" is a song that seems too dry for the album. Brooding vocals coupled with acoustic twang just don't feel right at home. Similar issues plague "The Pride," but aside from that, the majority of songs on CannibalSea stand proud and quirky like no other.
As the year draws to a close, The Essex Green landed at #21 on my Best of 2006 list, and for good reason. These songs won't easily dance their way from your iPod. The band makes effective use of dual vocalists, with Chris Ziter and Sasha Bell each shining on a number of tracks, sometimes the same one. While the arrangements are often uncomplicated, the vocalists actually become an extra instrument for the band to use, pulling off layered harmonies, verse switching, and even mood swings within a song with relative ease. If you call yourself a self-respecting fan of indie rock, pop, or any combination thereof, CannibalSea is a worthwhile addition to your music collection. However, don't take my word for it—check out The Essex Green for yourself.