Sea Wolf emerged in 2007 as a tuneful alternative to Bright Eyes, with both bands championing a mix of tremulous vocals and sharp, Americana-styled songwriting. White Water, White Bloom doesn't do much to dispel those similarities, but it does widen the band's sound, with bandleader Alex Church carefully splitting his time between the organic and the orchestral. Church wrote the entire album alone, yet all ten tracks feature contributions from an army of musicians, including several members of Sea Wolf's touring lineup. With producer Mike Mogis (one of the chief architects of Bright Eyes' sound) behind the boards, White Water evokes a lush, chamber-country ambiance, sounding intimate one minute and grandly expansive the next. At the center of everything is Church's attention to melody, which shines as brightly on the album's sparsest songs -- "Orion & Dog," "The Orchard," "Winter's Heir" -- as on the more bombastic numbers. Even so, it's the fully orchestrated material that makes the biggest impact. Church and Mogis lace their autumnal anthems with strings, organs, woodwinds, and clash cymbals, creating mini-symphonies that leave their mark but rarely overstay their welcome. The resulting tunes are lush, but few are truly dense, and White Water's biggest asset is its ability to wield such a large sound without replacing the woodsy, cozy feel of Church's solo performances.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey