SEA WOLF > Leaves in the River

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Bassist for the L.A. indie pop group Irving, Church went to Seattle producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Irving) for help on his first full-length solo effort Leaves in the River. What resulted from this Northwestern collaboration is a 10-song downer.

Label: Dangerbird
[Rating: 2 1/2 Stars]

Sea Wolf is the moniker of singer/songwriter Alex Brown Church.

Bassist for the L.A. indie pop group Irving, Church went to Seattle producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Irving) for help on his first full-length solo effort Leaves in the River. What resulted from this Northwestern collaboration is a 10-song downer.

While Church has assembled a dozen or so friends to fill out his orchestrations, one finds him alone on most of the tracks, or at least seemingly so, in part because of the spare instrumentation. His voice, a babbling brook, is the best instrument on this album. Church’s earnest vocal vulnerability places him alongside Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous and Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst; however Church proves to be a less imaginative lyricist. He employs an insipid sing-song style that’s both predictable and bland. “Black Dirt” begins: “Here on the ground/I cannot hear a sound/Just a strong and steady ring/getting louder as you sing,” and, on the maudlin “Black Leaf Falls,” he describes “Her perfume was so/I smell it still/I put her leaf upon/the windowsill.” The most enjoyable moments (and there are a few) occur when he abandons a rhyme scheme and lets loose, like on the single “You’re a Wolf.”

Much like the imagery it conjures up, Leaves in the River is kind of drab. It’s an album on which you’re looking for some sparkle, but instead you get somber sameness. Church has successfully created a character and written him into a narrative, but, among leaves in the river, black dirt and winter windows, Church keeps his self-loathing subject tucked away in a cold, dark storybook setting. And, while this album has all the makings to be an epic, it appears he’s settled for short (38-and-a-half minutes) and sweet, a solid first effort, but not necessarily a remarkable one.

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