Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, I’m going to be delving into a new record that dropped at the beginning of this month. ‘Children of the Universe’ is the sophomore effort of Seashaped, a two piece musical project from the United Kingdom. Pete Gustard and Alison Riley are a self-described ‘independent fifth dimensional musical cake.’ Their debut album, ‘A Pill for Everything,’ was met with some acclaim in 2014. How does their new effort stack up?
In preparation for this review, I listened to ‘Children of the Universe’ several times through. It’s an incredibly diverse offering. They’re billed as an alternative act, but I’d argue that there are hints of folk and different subgenres of rock and roll riddled throughout. Gustard and Riley switch off on lead vocal duties throughout, which certainly adds another layer to this fifth dimensional cake.
‘Walking Back’ introduces the band with some funk-inspired electric guitar riffs paired with some pretty beautiful harmonies between the two. Riley is the stronger of the two vocally, but both are certainly apt enough to control the mic on their respective songs. Neither of them are vocalists that knock the ball out of the park, but they get the job done. The album is much more appealing musically and lyrically. Seashaped’s blend of alternative rock is intriguing, though. The funky electric guitar banters with a subtle acoustic guitar track and a light string section.
This is a record best listened to on quality speakers or headphones. As I listened to ‘Children of the Universe’ on my studio grade monitors, I was able to pick up dozens of small instrumental intricacies throughout. As aforementioned, the tracks where Riley takes the lead are particularly notable. The band plays their strongest card on the second track in the offering, ‘Heart Undone.’ Her voice is gorgeous on this track and the hook is killer as well. ‘Wild Swimming’ occupies a very similar space.
Everything on this album is very atmospheric. There’s a lot of moody reverb floating about on this record. It works, though, and the eclectic nature of the production offers plenty of hidden gems throughout. There’s even a flute solo on ‘Small Town.’ How cool is that?! (That track is a bit bogged down by Gustard’s vocal performance, though. He struggles to stay on key.)
The weak vocal performance on ‘Small Town’ is redeemed in full on the piano-driven ‘Mother.’ This track is hauntingly stunning and the harmonies between the two of them are majestic. The funk returns on ‘Millions and Millions,’ one of the better and more experimental jams on the album. Lyrically, the songs are remarkably well written.
The album closes out with the title track, a cataclysmic nearly nine minute epic. The song is an incredibly bold statement, one that the duo manages to pull off very well. This epic of a track is the most rewarding experience on the whole record: it seeps with alternative influence and experimental themes. It’s like a Pixies song got mixed up with a Flaming Lips track. It’s insanely cool, to be quite frank, and ends the album on the highest note possible.
I absolutely love ‘Children of the Universe.’ It’s an intelligent and creative offering of music that remains consistently interesting throughout. Gustard may want to consider handing the microphone off to Riley more often, but that’s the only critique I really have the album. It’s a superb sophomore effort that will no doubt define the band as they continue to pursue their sound. Seashaped is only two years old. For the band to be this far along in its infancy is very impressive. It’s an act worth taking notice of now. Before long, many others will, too.
Check out the band and follow them on Facebook: