[ download ]
Back in May of 2007, Alex Brown Church made his debut as Sea Wolf via the exquisite Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low EP on Dangerbird Records. The release (which was followed four months later with his proper debut, Leaves in the River) was an impressive, engaging debut from a singular new voice–just the sort of unexpected treasure music lovers hope to stumble across. These two collections proved Church to be a formidable songwriter and performer, his music dusted with the literate artfulness of The Decemberists but infused with a more dynamic sense of tempo and rhythm. On September 22nd, Church will release his second full-length as Sea Wolf: White Water, White Bloom, whose title (like the band name itself) is a nod to a Jack London novel.
“Wicked Blood” begins the new album with a damp mass of strings, out of which rise hints of the track’s verse melodies. It isn’t long before things coalesce into the percussive punctuation of the string sections, some quietly strummed acoustic guitar, and gently lobbed piano chords. When Church’s vocals enter they are easy flowing and ruggedly handsome, and possess the instantly endearing quality of Jakob Nyström of Sweden’s Isolation Years; something about them suggests a weary worldiness that is hard to shake. During its choruses, “Wicked Blood” shakes off the dust and ascends farther, and by the time Church gets to the final bridge with its refrain of “There’s a member in the rafters,” the song has become a positively swoon-worthy affair.
As the song reaches its climax, Church finally completes the lyric. “There’s a member in the rafters and he’s gonna bring this whole thing down,” he sings, just as “Wicked Blood” effectively caves in, a lingering piano chord haunting the air after the melody has faded from memory. The effectiveness and completeness of this track as an artistic statement is staggering; that it is also such a joy to listen to repeatedly, however, is the true testament to Church’s songwriting talent.