Dusted Reviews

The Horns of Happiness - A Sea is a Shore

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Horns of Happiness

Album: A Sea is a Shore

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: Feb. 1, 2005

As song cycles go, A Sea As A Shore is relatively modest. There’s no grand plot, swelling strings or sprawling solos. It’s 10 songs, five instrumentals, 35 minutes - a concise exploration, as lead Horn Aaron Deer explains, of how "music - in its most humble state - can transport the listener to another place." But the album's oblique narrative allows myriad takes: love found, lost and left behind; death met and matched; the outwards journey and the prodigal return.

One doesn’t even realize they are going anywhere until the album closes with the same swelling organ it started with. It’s a shrewd move, encouraging repeated listens. The second time through, the open-ended lyrics reveal shifting seasons (“Autumn Breathes East,” “White Snow”), nostalgia (“Of Whistling and Wine”), loss (“Wonders,” “Joyous Laughing Wake”) and rebirth (“The Return,” “Watch Me Laugh Again”). The narrator is experiencing some kind of change; we’re just never sure what kind. Deer never gets too specific, nor does he drown in fuzzy abstraction. Unfortunately, Deer’s voice grows thin at times, lacking the charm of the lyrics and arrangements, and hence softening the album’s dramatic punch. But as the only downside to the record, it’s easy to overlook.

The songs and playing are rickety and ad hoc, like a gentler take on Waits’ garbage dump aesthetic or a child's art class project: too much glue, sloppy paint job, asymmetrical parts. A tumbling, out-of-time drum break splits “Joyous Laughing Wake” into two distinct halves. A bucolic acoustic guitar and accordion interlude suddenly appears amidst the hazy electric guitar fuzz on “Asleep in the Already Known.” “Under A Dim Light” shambles on the back of nervous piano noodlings, bleeping loops and trilling soprano saxophone, then slides into the light, pastoral swing of “Put Reins on My Night,” which itself turns into a frail hoedown, complete with banjo and handclaps.

Taken individually, no song jumps out, but each has a memorable line or two, a hook or deft instrumental touch: the echoing, majestic guitar line on "Autumn Breathes East," the glorious release of tension after the drum break on “Joyous Laughing Wake,” the layered piano and organ on “Wonders,” the content, exhausted chorus on “The Return.” Deer litters A Sea As A Shore with many tiny treasures, and exploring it is definitely worthwhile.

By Matthew Wuethrich

Read More

View all articles by Matthew Wuethrich

Find out more about Secretly Canadian

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.