Call it purity of vision, if you will, when a band releases three albums that sound almost exactly the same, and as a listener you don’t mind. In a way, that sort of continuity, easily mistaken for a lack of ideas, can evoke a sense of timelessness, or at least a feeling of being stuck in time. A universe of bliss where nothing will change, for better or worse.
In 2011, Go With Me introduced Seapony and established for the Seattle indie-pop trio an essential m.o. Quick—30something-minute—albums, with quick (two- or three-minute) songs, mostly with one- or two-word titles, that resemble Beat Happening and their K Records offspring in their minimalism and resemble forgotten ‘90s dream-pop groups with female vocalists whose songs were at once romantic and bittersweet (I always come back to Chicago’s Alsace Lorraine as a touchpoint for some reason).
2012’s Falling changed the formula ever so slightly. At the time I couldn’t detect the differences. It felt like the sort of repetition that fans hear as consistency and uncertain listeners see as monotony. Now, with a third album available for comparison, Falling has a distinctive heaviness. A nearly undetectable heaviness, but the guitars are crunchier, the overall sound is louder and more in-your-face. When you’ve become accustomed to their sound, the second album sounds this way. Yet at a glance, all three sound the same.
With that familiarity and focus on small differences, the new album A Vision sounds more back-to-basics, like a return to the initial approach of Go With Me. On the one hand, that means four years have passed since their debut and nothing has changed. On the other, it seems a clear commitment to the basic concept of the band, a gentle statement of purpose wrapped up in blissed-out guitars and propelled by drum machines.
“I saw the light / go on for miles”, the first song’s hook goes, and it seems perfect for Seapony. A confession combined with a poetic image. The album is full of these simple statements, tied to fetching melodies, centered upon like mantras. They say nothing and something, evoke a feeling without telling a story. Other songs build around them more, usually with the style of a letter sent to confess or reveal held-back emotions. Singer Jen Weidl sings like she’s whispering but also like she’s talking to us, casually unloading feelings in an open, cordial way. The music supports that with its drifting, pretty informality. It carries the sense that the songs all sound the same even when they don’t. Listen, for example, to the guitar playing on the comparatively expansive “Hollow Moon” and the care they’re taking in developing something more than the quick-ride, stick-to-the-melody style that generally seems to be their template. Something similar happens on “Go Nowhere”, a title I love for the way it seems to comment on the circular nature of Seapony’s music, the way it seems to be delighting in going nowhere.
There is, it might go without saying, a general sense of mystery here even if the songs are tidily wrapped together. It emerges in the lyrics too, Weidl’s in-awe voice conveying sentiments like, “I don’t know who you are / you’re like a ghost or a mirage.” The title track, the final song, embodies this notion that Seapony is creating pretty pictures that sparkle, dazzle and disappear before our eyes. And that’s tied to nature, to love, to happiness and sadness and every thing we feel and experience in our all-too-brief lives.
// Notes from the Road
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