[11 August 2014]
Though Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only sounds like it should be the soundtrack for a particularly unfortunate show on the CW, Seahaven delivers up something infinitely more interesting. Whereas before its take on pop-punk split the difference between Taking Back Sunday and Title Fight, with throat-shredding vocals and bouncy choruses, the band now embraces cleaner, wider textures. Reverie and its new sound may throw some old fans, but that’s a good thing. Though not always successful, this new approach removes the band from an earlier, heavily-dated sound and places it somewhere more exciting.
Nowhere is this new sound more effective than on first single “Silhouette (Latin Skin)”. Opening on rich guitar tones and light percussion, it swells to a warm climax with a chorus of voices and prominent washes of strings, drums marching to the beat. There is a restraint and maturity to this approach, rejecting easy thrills for something measured, doling out its thrills when necessary. Highlights “Andreas” and “Love to Burn” follow a similar tact, with the latter in particular harnessing this subdued energy to great effect.
On my first few listens, this struck me boring, particularly when I let the album play in the background. Many of these songs have relatively small dynamic ranges, building from quiet to a moderate volume before subsiding again. On previous records like Winter Forever and Ghost, this never would have flown, as Seahaven relied on a particularly grungy aesthetic. But the only song on Reverie that follows that pattern, “Flesh”, is undeniably its worst, sounding more like a throwback than a vital track. This serves to demonstrate just how completely the band has eclipsed its previous recordings with Reverie, in songwriting and in sound. Ben Brodin’s production is undeniably lush, basking Kyle Soto’s voice in reverb and keeping the drums crisp, incorporating the orchestral touches without drawing excess attention to them. At the very least, it’s a beautiful record to listen to on headphones.
There are still some missteps. Though Soto constructs direct and appropriate vocal melodies, he still has some of the strangest enunciation in all of indie rock. As can be expected, on the songs where he sits front and center, particularly piano ballad “Solar Eclipse”, this becomes ever starker, and his words even harder to understand. What should be a poignant moment is rendered incomprehensible. It’s confusing to say the least. And the aforementioned “Flesh” feels instantly dated when surrounded by its comparatively mature partners. Though the song may function as fan service, [Reverie] would certainly be better without it.
Regardless, these missteps are so obvious because the rest of the album is so strong. Where before Seahaven was content to copy its idols and peers, now it gazes beyond them. That it hasn’t quite arrived at that destination is no surprise; this is a young band, after all. In its moments of triumph, however, that fact is easy to forget.