Music

Seapony: Go With Me

There's something self-satisfied about the plainness of these tracks, so what starts as pop purity becomes pop music with blinders on.


Seapony

Go With Me

US Release: 2011-05-31
Label: Hardly Art
UK Release: import
Artist Website
Label Website
Amazon
iTunes

There's something to be said for simple pleasures. Who doesn't like a sweet melody, a quick two-minute pop song? Who doesn't sometimes some music that just sounds good, that you don't have to figure out and overanalyze and break down? Don't we all need a break sometimes? Seapony thinks so. This Seattle trio has, in Go With Me, created a no-frills pop record start to finish. It's got 12 songs, it clocks in under 35 minutes, and it's all about the sweet hook, the straight-ahead vocal melody, the quick punch.

It's not an unprecedented approach, of course. The Ramones did it, as did Belle & Sebastian in a very different way. Even the Magnetic Fields, who can be ornate, usually focus on simple melodies; that's what 69 Love Songs, even with its genre-hopping, is all about. But these bands at their most simple sound downright lush in comparison to Seapony.

"Dreaming", the first song on the record and the track that quickly got Seapony some serious attention, lays their cards out on the table. Danny Rowland's guitar work comes right at you, with a snapping riff over warm chords. It lays a nice bed for singer Jen Weidl's languid vocals, and bassist Ian Brewer follows Rowland's lead through much of the record. "Whenever I see you," Weidl sings, "I know my dreams are coming true." This is the kind of simple sentiment that comes up all over this record. There is no pretense of poetry or metaphor, no complex wordplay, just plainspoken declarations of love, of not wanting to lose someone important.

If there's something compelling in that lyrical approach, it's that Rowland wrote the songs about Weidl -- they're a couple -- and Weidl sings them. So, in essence, she is singing love songs to herself. The trouble is that's about the only thing you might find compelling about these words. While for one song this kind of direct approach might be enjoyable, even refreshing, the trick wears off quickly. Even when they almost stretch out -- at nearly four minutes, "I Really Do" seems epic -- the melodies stay basic, but not terribly tight. They craft an aesthetic here -- with that one guitar tone, the limited range of those dreamy vocals, etc. -- but they adhere to it with a mulish stubbornness. This isn't the Thermals, where the hooks cut and the vocals bleat, these songs seem to want it both ways: aimless, gauzy pop tunes with strict boundaries.

Unfortunately, the songs are never bigger than their modest parts. The Ramones, as basic as they were, pushed against pretentious rock tropes. Belle & Sebastian, trying as they can be, mix up basic melodies with compelling details, clever wordplay, and a sense of personality. Seapony doesn't seem to do either of these things. They seem averse to detail, offering up cast-off rhymes like "I am so low when you go" in place of anything distinct or remotely emotive. As the album's monotony wears on -- "I Never Would" sounds like "Into the Sea" sounds like "Always" and so on -- this basic approach takes on its own kind of pretentiousness. There's something self-satisfied about the plainness of these tracks, so what starts as pop purity becomes pop music with blinders on. One big question is why there are no live drums here. The band relies on a drum machine that delivers only the barest possible beats for these songs. Rather than complicate the mix with intricate, or even vaguely propulsive drumming, the simple percussion calls too much attention to the by-the-numbers pop the band delivers.

It's all well and good to call out overworked pop music -- there's certainly plenty of it out there -- but Seapony, so far anyway, aims to sound simple for simplicity's sake. They're a young band, and can snap off a hook as good as anyone, so there's plenty of time to build on what they've got here. They seem to know how they want to say something on Go With Me, and it's a formula that could work in its humble way. They just need to figure out what they're saying first. Simple pleasures are always welcome, but if they're not distinct, they become more fleeting than simple.

4
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Keep reading... Show less
Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image