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Seekonk - Pinkwood

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Artist: Seekonk

Album: Pinkwood

Label: North East Indie

Review date: Apr. 13, 2006

Portland, Maine's Seekonk makes the softest, prettiest kind of music: girl vocals whispered; interlocking webs of acoustic guitar picking coalescing in clouds of tone; melodies reinforced by subtle plinks of xylophone. On Pinkwood, the band replaced singer Shana Barry with Sarah Ramey, a slight adjustment which doesn't seem to have changed Seekonk's sound dramatically. If anything, Ramey's delicate phrasings make Seekonk's sound even more ephemeral, words and notes fading into a luminous texture of indefinite pop.

The rest of the band remains constant, in a cooperative, instrument-switching sort of way. Core members Patrick Corrigan and Todd Hutchisen trade off guitar and keyboard lines, while Jason Ingalls supplies drums where necessary, and a variety of other instruments – vibraphone, mandolin, xylophone – where they are not. Dave Noyes adds further textures with Rhodes, melodica and cello.

Pinkwod starts with the serpentine picking of "Love," two guitars twining and untwining in folk motifs, with harmonized murmurs rising mistily from this foundation. The story is hard to follow, involving "echoes out the back and voices in Portuguese," but the mood is inescapably gentle, dreamy and tranquil. The cut dissolves into whispery "la-la-la’s" and long breathy intonations of "loo-ooo-ve," as light and buoyant as dandelion seeds in the wind. "Armstrong" grows out of the organ’s heavy vibrato, accented with vibraphone tones and lazily strummed guitars. It moves slowly, shuffling its feet a bit and stopping to observe the sunset. Ramey's voice drifts alongside the vibraphone notes, barely audible but infinitely sweet. The focus sharpens a bit with "Powerout," the first cut on the album to incorporate a drumbeat and rhythmic patterns of guitar chords. The silence falls away, and the band begins to sound less like Mi and L'au and more like contemplative Yo La Tengo. The latter, though, would eventually explode out of tranquility with walls of discord and feedback, while Seekonk is content to simply ride a dreamy wave.

Like many emerging bands, Seekonk tacks a few outlier tracks onto the end of its album, putting a spaghetti western shuffle under "Take My Wife" and allowing Ramey to attempt a wail in the more dramatic "Orange & Blue." These are interesting diversions, but not wholly successful. Finale "The Great Compromise" returns to form, bubbling with a bossa nova lilt, its organ trills and sotto voce confidences recalling the quietest moments of YLT.

Pinkwood is a shy, beautiful album, the sort of record that whispers in your ear for a long time before you finally notice how good it is. For rainy afternoons and infinite Sunday mornings, for quiet contentment and dreamy consideration of possibilities, here's a reticent and wonderful soundtrack.

By Jennifer Kelly

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