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.