It seems fitting that Sea Wolf’s debut album, 2007’s “Leaves in the River,” opens with the sounds of rainfall on water because the band specializes in music that perfectly soundtracks a rainy day. It’s even better if you have a window to stare out of wistfully.
Channeling the pastoral folk sounds of Iron and Wine and the evocative lyrics of Belle and Sebastian, Sea Wolf is the pet project of California singer-songwriter Alex Brown Church, who also plays just about every instrument on his records.
Church brings his gentle, melancholy melodies to the Bartlett this weekend, where he’ll play a solo acoustic show under his Sea Wolf moniker.
This acoustic tour was inspired by a recent Kickstarter campaign, during which Church raised more than $63,000 to independently record and release an album of new, stripped-down songs. Church has released three studio albums since 2007, and his song “The Violet Hour” appeared on the soundtrack for the blockbuster film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
Don’t let that last fact (or his frequent lyrical references to wolves) fool you into thinking Sea Wolf produces some kind of vacuous teen pop: Church writes dreamy, thoughtful pieces about humans’ relationship to nature, with songs about being both consumed and inspired by the elements.
“What is this pulling / tugging at my limbs so heavy,” he sings in the song “Whirlpool,” “dragging me down again / into the depths of cold blue water?” In “Changing Seasons,” he opines, “I feel that darkness at my back / That’s why I’m always rearranging / And looking forward to the seasons changing.”
Both of those songs appear on Sea Wolf’s most recent album, 2012’s “Old World Romance,” which further emphasizes its running nature themes with its Instagram-ready cover image of the sea at sunset (or maybe it’s sunrise).
Sea Wolf’s sound is heavy on acoustic guitar (often it’s the only featured instrument, save for Church’s voice), but this record expands the band’s sonic landscape to include more involved instrumentation and the occasional electronic drumbeat.
You won’t be hearing any of that on Saturday night, when the stage will be graced by just Church and his guitar. Perhaps that’s the best way to experience Sea Wolf’s music, which is so rustic and austere, with the roots of something much more complex and mysterious creeping just beneath the surface.
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