The Boats

Songs by the Sea

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The Boats sailed in out of nowhere and, as presented on Songs by the Sea, let nothing surface of their origins. This is the kind of album that will strike you as "just another post-rock record" on first listen, but will likely grow on you as time goes by. There are two reasons for that. The first one is the voice of Elaine (Reynolds, adds the press blurb), who sings wonderfully understated wordless vocals on a handful of tracks. The second is the quality of the arrangements, which include a host of acoustic and electronic instruments, all of them sounding used and decrepit. The press blurb adds again that members of Hood and the Remote Viewers are hiding behind this unit, and further listening makes it plausible. Yet, Songs by the Sea is better approached as it comes, without any expectations. The first half of the album is almost exclusively acoustic, accordion, guitar, piano and brushed drums taking care of the core of the music, while Elaine's fragile vocalizations float above the surface. As the album progresses, electronics are introduced and take increasingly more room -- not always for the better. The lo-fi bleeps and whines add a certain character to tracks like "You Run Circles Around Me," but when they become the center of attention and include crude sampling, as in "I Ignore All My Friends," they make the album slip off the tracks. Luckily, the haunting "Lessley," "It's Not Your Fault (It's How Air Works)," and the closing "Kind Regards" are among the standout tracks and compensate for such weak spots. Fans of the Beans, Tape, and the post-folk scene will probably enjoy this fine -- if a bit unassuming -- album.