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CD Review: Some By Sea – on fire! (igloo)

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Maybe it’s because I wear hornrims and have a closetful of ironic T-shirts that I can be so judgmental. Or maybe it’s society that’s made me that way. It could have been all those episodes of Seinfeld I watched during my formative years. Or perhaps I’m just naturally inclined to be a bastard. I don’t know. But every once in a while, even I can’t bring myself to judge; every once in a while, I come across a person who I should naturally dislike, but I just can’t. For example, let’s say there’s a girl who looks like a refugee from Saddle Creek, but spends every weekend volunteering at the local animal shelter. She should be writing mediocre poetry and smoking cloves, but nooooooooooo, she has to go save every adorable kitten and scrappy puppy, and be modest about it. Some By Sea’s newest album, on fire! (igloo), is much like that hypothetical girl: too indie by half, with its glowing orchestral background and references to “blogs,” but undeniably likable at the same time.

The album does begin in a nauseatingly dated sense with “An Introduction: You Can’t Just Walk Away from Someone Who is Leaning on You,” which weighs itself down with the aforementioned blog reference, as well as mentions of “indie scenes.” And sure, it’s okay to be disillusioned with that stuff (who isn’t nowadays?), but shouldn’t a band as talented as Some By Sea have something better to write about? For those who ignore that first surface track and continue to push on through the album, however, on fire!’s rewards are great; it’s lovely, cerebral music, rife with orchestral elements and wistful melancholy. The theatricality they generate, thankfully, does not come from singer Chris Du Bray’s voice, but from the the mutual longing generated as all five members play in harmony. It is rare to find younger musicians who understand the emotional power of their instruments like Some By Sea.

Paradoxically, the largest flaw of this band is also their greatest asset: their “indieness.” Some By Sea should (and most likely will) be immensely popular. Their sound is that currently in-vogue mixture, glistening waves of instruments and wordy lyrics. It’s appealing and listenable, but what will happen to Some By Sea in two years, when lord knows what will be popular in that much-disdained indie scene? on fire! (igloo) is meant to be enjoyed in the here and now, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but who will want to buy this album two years from now? Perhaps the future of Some By Sea can be found in standout tracks such as “Fables (Kentucky Social),” which takes several different sounds and pieces them all together to make something entirely unique. Let’s just hope they’ll become less engrossed in their times as their career continues to flourish.

Reviewed by Megan Giddings

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