Seashaped – Children Of The Universe – Album Review (Part 1!)
Here’s a unique experience I had recently this year while UK-based band Seashaped prepared the follow up to their album “A Pill For Everything” which we’ve reviewed here in the past. Since that time…I’d like to say that Pete & Alison of Seashaped and myself have become close enough to be considered incredible friends for being oceans apart.
Earlier this year…they wrote into me at sleepingbagstudios asking for me to have a listen to their upcoming album, Children Of The Universe and to relay any thoughts that I had. What an honour! Truly…this is the kind of news I always look forward to from established sounds I’ve already fallen hard in love with. Their debut album “A Pill For Everything” was filled with deep, rich ideas and showed the indication of so much promise to come. To hear that the music was continuing strong was one thing…to hear it was nearly finished and about to find a new home in my eardrums is totally another.
What I don’t know…is how I felt about it.
Wait! Don’t lynch me…let me explain!
With their approval…the article down below is actually the initial review I typed-up privately to Alison & Pete…and what I’m saying is…I haven’t read it since I typed it out and sent it off to them. So truly…I’m simply being literate here…I don’t know how I felt about it, specifically in writing that is…
And rather than read it and find out the specifics all over again of these first observations, Alison and Pete through their extraordinary gift of allowing me to publish this as an article allowed me to put another new idea entirely in play for the first time.
What you’ll read below is the un-altered letter I originally sent to them regarding my honest first impressions of their new album Children Of The Universe. I chose not to read through it again, so that within this week here…I can have another listen to the album and we’ll see how these opinions line up. The aftermath if you will… Again, I can thank Pete & Alison enough for this unique experience to write something like this…and for getting their incredible new album to me to listen to in advance now.
Children Of The Universe is out…and you can get yourself some of that right now. And I’ll be writing a brand-new piece on them as this week progresses and find out if I still feel the same way and if these songs continue to resonate as strongly with me as they had once before.
For now…I’ll completely cop-out for the day here and provide you with this excellent and unique tale shared between Seashaped and I as I discussed their latest creations from Children Of The Universe for the very first time…
Enjoy! It begins…
Pete/Alison…you two wonders of musical-mischief you…
Just wanted to say thank you so much for the opportunity to check this album out in advance! What a pleasure to hear you guys challenging yourselves this much! Truly!
Talk about coming out of the gate Pete! Where in the all-hell did this confidence come from brother? And Alison…excellent backing vocals here…you guys sound perfect together. Great opening track with “Walking Back,” you two – that is a beyond brilliant start to this listening experience. Love the strings…excellently written song through and through.
I should probably mention I’m writing all of this in ‘real time.’ J You’re getting my first impressions here as they all hit me.
There she is! Alison – Pete’s determined to take over that microphone with that first track – watch out! Love the vocal ideas on “Heart Undone” big time…love it when you hit the high part “If I see you again…” part…Alison, that’s wonderful. Seriously…I think you are NAILING it there.
I love the song…I have two concerns with it…
- Alison’s vocals production-wise….Pete….look into this one just a bit more….The high-part seems to drift into the mix perfectly…the rest has a somewhat ‘stale studio-air’ to it…like the rest of the instruments are somewhat ‘live’ almost and this sounds a little flat in the mix…not so much the performance at all.
- That being said, Alison I love you to death…now go back and nail the verse on that one a little bit tighter.
And THAT being said…JESUS Alison did you take lessons in beautiful song-writing (“Wild Swimming”) in this past year? I am loving the direction you’re taking yourself. You’ve got a lot of BOLD parts on this album…soft, loud or inbetween them – your writing is at an all-time high you two – I can tell that from these first three songs alone. Alison…I can hear you know where the hooks are…I can hear you brace yourself, get ready to deliver…and you DO. DON’T let yourself let up when the quiet-parts or less-energy intense moments pop-up – get in there with the knowledge and confidence that you’re writing songs that demand every inch of you at every moment. The soft, less-energetic spots are the toughest for ANY singer out there…make sure you can HEAR the conviction in your performance…if you don’t – TELL YOURSELF that…get in there and kick it in the ass – you my dear, have proven yourself more than capable time and time again.
But I ALSO know that if you and I were to talk right now (sorry for the exclusivity Pete) that you’d completely agree we gotta get Pete an award for just how much he’s stepped out of the shadows here. “Nothing Gets Simpler,” I mean…again…just KILLIN it Pete…you’ve really stepped it up big time. This beat as well…I don’t know…I’ll be flat-out honest with you guys about this song…I LOVE IT…and with that being said, I know most won’t ‘get it’ as easily. But this is GENIUS…the people that do ‘get it’ are going to hear an incredible update on the Portishead sound here…mixed with…I dunno Pete, what would YOU say…it’s almost a Michael-Hutcheson kind of tone you’ve got goin’ on…I dig it. Lol…I haven’t looked…I wonder if I said that last time… But musically…compositionally…this is the kind of track every musician WANTS their fan-base to latch onto…but it’s the kind of track where you’ll find yourselves getting the nod from other musicians to confirm what an amazing job you’ve done here. And DUDES – that GUITAR! WOW.
Again…just first impressions…
“Small Town” is my first debatable. On the one hand, I love the rhythm and roll of the verse…absolutely love what Alison is doing in the background…love the guitar…I think it’s the chorus on this one that’s not selling it to me overall. I think the note you’re going for around the 2:40-2:45ish area…same thing applies here guys…don’t 95%-it! You’ll hear nothing but the 5% for the rest of your entire life. Hmmm. Yeah….this is a tough one. I kind of picture this one sticking with me as well in terms of the hook…but I feel like this one so far almost takes something away from the amazingness of the other tracks.
And I MIGHT not have felt so strongly about this issue had you NOT gone and put on “Mother” right after. Beautiful song. Absolutely fucking gorgeous, pardon my language. Really great effort here on this track…again, the two of you are working perfectly together here…Alison…you’re nailing it. Absolutely nailing it. Love it. It’s a real tough one on you Pete. I love what you’re doing…we all know a song like this can get away with a little bit of an ‘uneven’ sound to the vocals…you want those spots where those vocals crack and break just a little…that’s what makes the emotional & real connection here in this song. Watch the high-parts here though brother…my example would be something like:
“I see you when I’m here” Vs. “I know not to care” – this one might just be personal opinion…but tone-wise on that first line Pete you’re at a borderline whine (sorry!) and on the other line, breaking perfectly. There’s even one spot towards the end where you put a slight amount more aggression on “You’re the mother…” and…I don’t know…could very well be words you believe in that might not find their way out of the mouth any other way than that….but I’d take the high-road on this one and stick to the sweetness and tender-emotional aspects of the music here and not deviate from that feeling for a moment….but again, those are slight changes, might just be personal opinion….and I’m so sorry I’m a bit behind I have to type EXTREMELY QUICKLY because I have to talk about…
“Millions And Millions,” God are you guys phenomenal when you’re at your most artistic, challenging and creative. I think you’ve done a lot with the layers on this album….you did well with that before too…but I think you’ve stepped it all up in every department. I can’t decide if I feel like I’m missing Alison in the lead spot more…or if I feel like these backing parts are more of a comfortable and suiting place…cause same thing in this track Al, you are just CRUSHING it here….I absolutely love what you’ve come up with. I’d say this…for those that know your last album…it does sound like Alison has…I don’t know…carried less of the weight perhaps…maybe there’s a more even distribution here, or maybe she’s been freed up to really get creative with the vocals…
Your title-track, engaging, great words, awesomely huge in sound…completely creative…again you two…when you’re up to things like this, “Millions And Millions,” “Nothing Gets Simpler,” “Wild Swimming…” these sounds are unique to MY ears guys – and you both know full-well this beard is loaded with grey hairs…they’ve been around; you guys have something NEW here when you’re at your most inventive. “Children Of The Universe,” I mean shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit… I honestly can’t say if the whole piece as an entity is something that EVERYONE will love…but MAN…again, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this.
Can’t say enough guys…you’ve outdone my every expectation here…I know I’m on my third page but I’m honestly speechless. I LOVE THE SAMPLE that ends this song…the piano…good lord…what a ride you’ve taken me on – I truly hope you are both giving each other a high five and a hug right now, because moments like this….hearing a band with EXCELLENT starting blocks like yours continue to develop at this incredibly inspired & passionate rate are the very moments and reasons I get out of bed every morning.
So! In closing! “Small Town” – think about it! I think you’ve got yourself 80% of the way there on that song and it can become a quality tune…just needs a bit of the same creativity and passion you show on the OTHER SEVEN SONGS, which are ALL freakin gorgeous, brilliant and wonderfully dynamic to listen to… I think looking back on it all now guys…I still feel the same way about it…by comparison at the end of listening, “Small Town,” at the very least in the chorus-dept…sounds almost a little TOO easy for you. I’d say challenge yourselves there…and you’ve got this one sewn up, locked tight with a set of truly amazing songs.
MAN. Why didn’t you tell me lol? 😉 I knew I’d like it – full confidence in you two wonderfuls…but truly…you’ve blown away my expectations and I really, really believe you two, my friends, Alison, Pete…you should be tremendously proud of the music you’re making. It’s incredibly real, it had SO MUCH emotion (both albums) and it’s 100% authentic, made by two people I know to be loving every minute of the ride.
In short…it is literally people like yourselves that are the heroes of my planet.
Thank you once again for letting me listen.
Your biggest fan,
- Jer @ SBS
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