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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Sea Wolf
Leaves in the River
Dangerbird

Rating: 9/10 ?


September 26, 2007
Wolf Larsen, the cynical ship captain of Jack London's novel, The Sea-Wolf, is one of American literature's most vile creations. Larsen, a self-educated, masochistic philosopher of sorts, rules over his sealer schooner, the Ghost, with an iron fist, brutalizing his crew and finding little worth in human beings or, ultimately, in life itself. London's novel and its brutish sea captain were the inspiration behind the moniker of Sea Wolf, whose debut LP Leaves in the River is a perfect complement to the coming autumn season and its cruel but beautiful lesson that all that lives must eventually pass on.

Sea Wolf is the creation of Alex Brown Church, who was born in the small town of Columbia, a surviving remnant of the California gold rush, and studied at NYU. Church handles the vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, and programming, with a dozen collaborators adding their expertise in strings, guitar, and percussion. Noted Seattle producer Phil Ek, who has worked with, among others, The Shins and Modest Mouse, produced Leaves in the River, and the album has the feel of a chilly autumn evening wandering through darkened streets, dead leaves crunching underfoot. Leaves in the River is Church's first full-length, following his debut EP, Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low.

"Leaves in the River" opens the album with the sounds of a railroad crossing and pattering rain. Church begins: "I met a girl on Halloween/ she was drunk and I was lost/ and it was dark and cold out/ when we left/ as we walked the rain started/ the leaves softened with every step/ and all around us people slept/ alone with their dreams." There is no better way to begin this album, which takes us on a journey of sorts through a variety of haunted confessionals. Church is a gifted lyricist, creating mysterious first-person narratives that create a true mood, as on "The Cold, the Dark & the Silence: "if you were to roll/ to roll down your window/ you'd find/ the wind, the ice, the trees/ that sway like skeletons/ outside."

Other gems include "You're a Wolf," with its softened, repeating guitar lick, which feels vaguely like "Love Comes Tumbling," an old U2 B-Side, the haunting forest chantey, "Winter Windows," and the sweet ballad of "The Rose Captain." Strings accompany nearly track, giving the album a natural feel, and a menagerie of instruments abound, though the album is grounded in its simple acoustic guitar patterns. The perpetual fog surrounding nearly every track adds to the mysteriousness of the album, as it feels murky and just the slightest bit eerie.

Mr. Church's premiere will most certainly draw comparisons to the machinations of the enigmatic Benoît Pioulard, whose mist-covered debut, Précis, was amongst the best of 2006. Such comparisons are just, as both artists rely on acoustic guitars, found sounds, and subtle electronic rhythms to create their mysterious atmospherics. Mr. Church's lyrics are more intelligible than Piolard's, and while there is a clear fog of sound surrounding Leaves in the River's instrumentation, it is a notch below that of Précis.

Leaves in the River is an entrancing, evocative album, filled with beautiful lyrics and haunting sounds. This is a fine debut, a gathering of damned souls and cryptic ruminations that would make the grizzled sealer Wolf Larsen proud - if he really gave a damn, that is.

Reviewed by Eric J. Morgan
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Eric J. Morgan is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Colorado. He has an orange cat named Nelson and longs for the day when men and women will again dress in three-piece suits and pretty dresses to indulge in three-martini lunches and afternoon affairs.

See other reviews by Eric J. Morgan

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