‘Open Up Your Head’ by Sea Girls [Album Review]

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Sea Girls is one of those bands that I found one song from and it was such a bop and I went back to it so much that I thought I would go and see what other music they had.

At the time the only other stuff they had were EPs. I listened to the most recent one and was sort of torn between songs that I liked and songs that I was kind of meh about but ultimately decided to review.

You can click through to read my review if you want to know some of those initial thoughts. As always any of the songs that were already in the EP that I reviewed I won’t be focusing on with the full album review just because I’ve talked about them and I don’t want to just keep repeating myself.

What was I expecting when I sat down and listen to the full album?

Well, I was hoping that this album would lean closer to the kinds of sounds that were in songs like Violet which were upbeat, catchy and the kinds of songs that I would go back to over and over again as opposed to a couple of the other songs on the EP that I was kind of lukewarm at best.

And what I got was a beautiful mixed basket again but more engaging than I was expecting it to be.

Respecting the Drums

The first thing that I noticed on my first listen through the whole album was the drums.

Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not a drummer so my knowledge of how drums work is really just based on how music beats work and not so much about how you would sit down and play drums.

However, what I do know a little bit about is audio mixing. I’m not a professional producer in any capacity but I do have some knowledge of how tracks are mixed.

So what caught me about the mixing on this album was that the drums and the vocals were pulled forward as opposed to the rest of the instruments. You usually get this with vocals because you want the vocal performance eighty to ninety percent of the time to be the focal point–if your song has vocals. Usually, the lyrical content has something to say but the theme and the story behind the song so you want to make sure that it doesn’t get swallowed up by the rest of the instruments. Especially since a lot of people when they’re performing vocals aren’t as loud as the other instruments are unless you put them forward in the mixing. Just think of any badly mixed live performance you’ve ever watched and it was probably bad because you couldn’t hear the person singing.

Image from MTV UK

But what usually happens is that the drums get pushed back. They’re usually behind any guitars or other rhythm instruments that are doing the main melody and then you have the drums and the bass. The bass can be pulled a little bit farther forward in the mix just because bass notes tend to be at low enough frequencies that they’re a bit harder to pick out then a drum beat. Drums are good at cutting through a lot of sound and chaos and still be heard clearly. So they get pushed into the back. Poor little drums.

Not so with this album!

A lot of the songs at the front end of this album have the drums parallel to the vocals. I’m assuming in the actual mix the vocals are amplified and pulled forward in the mix so that you can hear them better mostly just because of the kind of vocal technique being used but they’re both equally easy to focus on because of how it’s mixed. And things like guitars and other instrumentals are put behind them to fill it out and give a nice rounded out sound.

This makes me curious about the formation of the band because usually when you get something like drums or bass prominent in how songs are written it means that one of the founding members is either a drummer or a bassist. This is why when you get bands that are made up of like a drummer and a bassist you can get some funky sounds like with Royal Blood or I Don’t Know How But They Found Me. Two drastically different bands–and different from Sea Girls–but it does make me wonder how this band was formed that they would want the drums to be such a focal point to the way that they write songs.

Going Out Like a Lion

I think the pacing of this album is really what gives it more power than it really should.

What I mean by this is that the end of the album, in my opinion, is a lot stronger than the first half of the album.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a couple of the songs that are right at the start of the album but I think overall it’s the latter half that I end up listening to more. Most albums have a slower section in the middle but they usually don’t pick up as much in the latter half of the album because they want the first half to grab your attention–pull you into the album and the latter half usually doesn’t quite measure up exactly to the beginning of the album.

Whereas this album feels like the end is stronger than the beginning. But I think this is for a couple of reasons.

Image from Vanyaland.com

I was trying to figure out why exactly I prefer the end of this album. I think one of the main reasons is because there are a couple of songs in which the vocal dynamics pick up a lot more. I’m not a huge fan of the vocals for this band and I’m not entirely sure why.

I always go back to this idea that they’re a little too indie pop for me and I don’t entirely know what that means in this context because a lot of the time what bothers me about indie pop vocals is that they’re not placing sound correctly. They usually end up singing in a way that puts a lot of wear on their vocal cords and that bothers me as a singer but that isn’t the case here.

I think the real reason is that it tends to be a very safe vocal that stays around middle C and there’s not a lot going on in terms of adding texture to it or emotion and it doesn’t vary a lot between tracks. And I think that’s the reason that my favourite song continues to be Violet because it’s one of the few times where there’s a more aggressive vocal and we get to hear Henry Camamile’s higher range and it’s a little bit more chaotic than a lot of their other songs so the vocals don’t feel as weighed down.

And you get that too with You Over Anyone which is another song where the vocals come through. There’s a nice falsetto and it’s a lot more stripped back in terms of music so it adds a nice dynamic to an album that pretty much ticks off the same boxes with a lot of their songs.

I mean, they also claim to be influenced by The Strokes so many that’s why I can’t quite get into all their music.

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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