Live Review

Sea Wolf, Union Hall, Brooklyn

The band find a new stride amidst their growing pains.

Alex Brown Church

greets the crowd with a bashful smile and a raises hand of acknowledgement as his band take the stage at Union Hall. The multi-instrumentalist and lead songwriter seems slightly embarrassed to be greeted with applause from the audience.

Church begins the first song of the night accompanied by a soaring cello line and a chord progression flushed out by his backing musicians, then jumps into one of his more immediately recognizable songs, ‘Winter Windows’. Built on the chorus ‘This is the world, this is the world we live in. It’s not the one I choose but it’s the one we’re given,’ it’s difficult not to see the song as an anthem of youthful frustration, mediated by the aging process and the acceptance of one’s surroundings. Capitalizing on the older material’s immediate recognition, the band slip smoothly into the self-reproaching, yet excusing, ‘Middle Distance Runner’. At this point Sea Wolf set pace in a run of songs off their new album.

Trading the air and pump organ trappings of his first album - those tones so suited to Sea Wolf’s slightly wry and maudlin lyrics – for their synthesized approximations, it is apparent that the band are experiencing some growing pains. Church is trying to maintain an aesthetic and tonal vocabulary similar to his first album while expanding his musical palette. This concern plagues all bands looking to grow, and is apparent as Church‘s voice develops a more identifiable Jeff Tweedy character during his newer songs.

Yet, the band find a new stride amidst their growing pains. The creeper, ‘Black Leaf Falls’, is given new heft with robust toms and consistent kick-drum drive. ‘Black Dirt’ morphs from verbal indictment to massive band-sized storm. The obvious encore, ‘You’re A Wolf’, stretches beyond it’s detectable bridge and personal anthemic qualities, due in part to the lead guitarist’s solid old school solo; note-bending and rife with distortion.

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