Sóley

We Sink

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The combination of clear, gently piercing and reverbed vocals, piano, and buried glitch beats on "I'll Drown" shows that from the start Seabear member Sóley Stefánsdóttir is working in her own particular tradition of avant pop, emphasis on the pop -- a very 21st century combination that couldn't have quite existed before that moment but at the same time has clear roots in the past. The sense of mournful elegance and quiet joys continues throughout We Sink, Sóley's singing half-sweet naif, half-contemplation over an understated variety of arrangements and textures. The interplay of strings, a rhythmic tone, steady drumming, and a distant electric guitar figure on "Dance" is a nicely representative example of how she aims for recombination of elements without trying to sound like one thing or another per se -- neither genre reinvention nor innovation, it is just a way to make things work nicely in combination with her vocals, in the same way that piano and what sounds like strange metallic scrapes, perhaps like rail lines, on "Fight Them Soft" work throughout that brief song. Other songs are slightly more conventional in orchestration, like the piano-led "Blue Leaves" and the hollow drum machine and soft organ arrangement of "And Leave," but the performances are strong enough in their own right. More than once she goes for stark acoustic guitar and soft singing, which lends a bit of a skeletal Mazzy Star feeling to things. But on a song like "Bad Dream," where she suddenly shifts to multi-track vocals on the final words, an individual stamp is clear, as much as the sense of soft pep in her singing. When she ramps up a bit the impact is all the more forceful even with restraint -- "Pretty Face" turns into a combination of smoky Julee Cruise ballad and fast-paced, Latin-tinged sprightly kick, with elements carefully added throughout up to guitar and handclaps even as she seems to drift along the arrangement.

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