Sea Lion - ‘I Heard there’s Music on the Town’ (album)
Writing about my Singles and Albums of the Year, and reading lots of other lists on different websites, is actually a pretty sobering experience (appropriately enough for the festive season) because I’m constantly reminded about all the stuff we didn’t write about. In my case it’s mainly the albums I’ve missed that frustrates me, and in 2021 I promise to try and do better – even though I know I can’t write about or like everything.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, Swedish songwriter Sea Lion released her new (and 4th) album, and I just didn’t have chance to get to it then, but I’ve listened to it a fair amount, it’s been a nice contrast to the jollity of Festive music. Not that there’s been too much jollity, obviously.
‘I Heard there’s Music on the Town’ just sounds like a Sea Lion album – just read it in a casual, understated way and that mirrors her style, maybe that’s part of her appeal to me too. But she’s also the type of artist who creates intensity through her music just through that understated, minimalist approach, where less is more, and where supporting instruments are only used when they’re really needed.
It’s a short album too at just 8 tracks, with a couple of instrumentals in that mix, but that’s fine. Actually it’s enough for me personally given the style of music, and has the added convenience of fitting into a 5k run, and whilst her plaintive, melancholy, low tempo alt folk style might sound like the music you would least be likely to run to, for me it works, because running is my escape from the world, and similarly Sea Lion will draw you into another world completely.
Even the opening ‘intro’ seems to demand that, a curious ambient ‘noise’ (is it a plane or train?) with droned accompaniment, it’s like a palette cleanser for your ears, before the title track breaks through with just guitar and organ accompaniment, and yes this is pretty much as dynamic as it gets, so just sit back and soak it all in. The pulsating instrumental ‘Furnace’ will draw you in further, before it fades and the gorgeously sad ‘Some Kind of Angel’ takes over, where the violin (played by Katja Riis Eilertsen) provides the perfect counter balance to the laid back sleepy vocals. I’d just like to be able to grasp ever word of the lyrics, but maybe that’s my ears.
The gentle background violin melody is in many ways the highlight of ‘How You Love’, but by now my ears have adapted to the vocal style, and I’m drawn into her hazy gentle tunes, maybe half awake or half sleeping, or in that strange place in between. And the ambient instrumental ‘Bells’ will certainly send you to sleep if you’re not standing up, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. ‘Man in the Bar’ somehow slows things down even further, and this time a cello adds a gracefully sombre element to the sound, before she rounds things up with another soft dreamy and circling instrumental track, ‘City Snow’.
This is pretty sparse, minimalist stuff, with little variation in either the style of song, or the guitar or vocals. I guarantee that quite a few of you will simply not adapt to it or like it, and honestly that’s just fine. But the solitary place that Sea Lion escapes to does appeal to me, and whilst I wouldn’t want to escape there multiple times a day, I find it absorbing, gently beautiful and somehow cleansing. The worlds a pretty chaotic crazy place, but somehow Sea Lion allows my mind to drift somewhere a little different, and that’s definitely a good thing.
Nordic Music Review 7/10