Sea Girls
Photo: Blackksocks / Courtesy of MBC PR

Sea Girls Refine Their Guitar Rock on Excellent Second Album ‘Homesick’

Sea Girls have expanded their sound in small but successful ways on Homesick. It’s a solid sophomore effort with excellent songwriting throughout.

Sea Girls
18 March 2022

Sea Girls are a rising UK act, releasing a series of successful EPs in the late 2010s. Polydor Records had them set up for a big debut album and triumphant supporting tour in 2020. But then COVID came along and scuttled any opportunities for the band to play live. Nevertheless, the album, Open Up Your Head was released that August to positive reviews, including here on PopMatters. The short-circuiting of the usual album promotion and touring cycle meant the group returned to work writing songs. Homesick arrives a scant 19 months after their first album, and it shows musical growth without losing the big hooks that made Open Up Your Head so appealing.

While Open Up Your Head had a lyrical throughline of dealing with being dumped, Homesick isn’t entirely as focused. It does, however, open and close with different takes on youthful nostalgia. “Hometown” begins with a simple bassline and vocalist Henry Camamile reminiscing. The lyrics “Lemonade / Ripped jeans / Nothing feels real when you’re 17 / I remember it / Always” set the stage for a celebration of being a teenager. The gigantic chorus certainly goes in that direction, but Camamile sneaks in lines along the way that puncture the party. In verse one, the person he’s singing about will “Never learn the words to my new songs.”

In verse two, “She’ll always be the last girl you kissed.” Then, after the pounding guitar solo, the bridge includes, “I watched you lose your way / And I just walked away / I watched your nose bleed out / We didn’t talk ’cause it wasn’t cool to talk about.” The song is such a fun, rocking banger that it’s easy to miss that the friend Camamile is singing about has passed away.

At the end of Homesick, “Friends” is the actual celebration that “Hometown” purports to be. Beginning with an acoustic guitar intro, the song quickly gets to its rousing, mid-tempo chorus. “Grab your friends / Wherever you can / Go fuck up your plans / ‘Cause every second you’re not wasting’s one you’ll never get back.” Camamile sings with the energy and passion of someone who spent a year in isolation, even though the song isn’t specifically about quarantine. The music is filled with low-key but effective guitar and synth riffs, but these are merely support for the big, big vocal delivery.

In between these two widescreen pop-rock tracks, Homesick finds Sea Girls trying out new things and refining what they already did well. “Sick”, the record’s second track and first single, is a relatively relaxed song that finds Camamile declaring all the things he’s sick of, often contradicting himself. “I’m sick of being drunk / I’m sick of being sober / I’m sick of being in love / Sick of it being over” is how the song starts and sets the stage. The chiming, mostly clean rhythm guitars that fuzz up during the refrain give the track a distinctly 1980s rock vibe. Sea Girls resist going for the ear candy hook this time. At least until they hit the song-closing bridge, where the vocal melody swells and the lush synths come in.

Camamile, already a strong singer, is even more the focal point this time out. The penultimate song, “Cute Guys”, might be the record’s most emotional. It begins with a plaintive acoustic guitar line and wobbly synths flitting through the background. Camamile, in a high register, declares, “I spill my guts upon your floor / Then I’ll leave and love no more / And I’ll be free but insecure.” The chorus finds him in falsetto, moaning, “I’m terrified / That you’re alive / With cute guys.” It’s a heck of a performance, and Sea Girls wisely let him have the spotlight for most of the song. But at 2:40, guitarist Rory Young begins a snarling, distorted riff that considerably toughens the track. Drummer Oli Khan gets to pound away, bassist Andrew Dawson joins with a rumbling, fuzzed-out tone, and even piano plunking keyboards get into the act. Camamile eventually returns with his falsetto, but the rest of the band match him at the end of the song.

There are also tracks where Sea Girls just rock out and easily recapture the big hooks and loud guitars method that served them so well on their first album. “Again Again” may be the most unapologetic of these. A brief string intro gives way to a sparse verse that explodes into a huge chorus. Camamile’s vocals are impassioned and catchy throughout the track, while Young’s guitar accents boost the melody at every turn. “Someone’s Daughter Someone’s Son” counts as Sea Girls holding back on a big rocker. The rapid verses slide into an equally fast chorus, but the energy level stays relatively static without pushing for a gigantic refrain. “Lucky”, on the other hand, lets the track build gradually. Each verse finds Camamile pushing a little harder while the guitars get more chaotic.

There is plenty of relationship angst on Homesick, but fortunately, there’s enough lyrical variety that it doesn’t feel like a retread of the first record. The exception is “Sleeping With You”, which, intentionally or not, seems to pick up where Open Up Your Head closer, “Moving On” left off. Lyrically, that song found Camamile narrating that he had found a new girlfriend but confessing he was still thinking about his old girlfriend. A lot. “Sleeping With You” stresses how “I’ve got something really good with you” but keeps returning to “I’ll never forget her.” Based on real-life or not, it’s a nakedly confessional song where he’s trying so hard to be with this person he genuinely likes but struggling mightily with lingering feelings. The band keeps the music low-key here, moving along at a mid-tempo pace while letting Camamile’s lyrics stay center stage.

Homesick is an excellent second album. The songwriting throughout is excellent, and Sea Girls have expanded their sound in small but successful ways. They’ve found ways to write songs without building to an anthemic chorus every time and have figured out how to slow down without sacrificing their energy level. Camamile is an even stronger vocalist on Homesick, and he seems like a star in waiting. Most publications seem to classify Sea Girls as an indie rock band. It’s probably more accurate to use them to illustrate how an act can make mainstream rock in the 2020s without seeming pandering or sanitized.

RATING 7 / 10