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.
It’s not often a debut like ‘Pacifico,’ the first release from the alternative pop artist Brice Sedgwick, comes across my desk. The nine track endeavor isn’t just a polished sonic excursion through some fascinating themes, but rather, a solo artist’s surprisingly cohesive journey through combining a bevy of unlikely genre influences. While ‘Pacifico’ is “pop” in its core, it’s doused in alternative and psychedelic rock, hip hop, industrial, and so much more.
‘Tortoiseshell Sky’ sets the bar particularly high at the beginning of the collection, showcasing Sedgwick’s production style in grand form. Ethereal synthesizers and string sections rise and fall as Sedgwick croons lead vocals through a beautifully programmed auto-tune. The track reminds me of Kanye West, at least, in the sense that Sedgwick has used auto-tune stunningly. It can be utilized as a creative tool and instrument when implemented as such, versus a crutch. It’s a perfect tool used properly here.
The following track, ‘Midnight In Echo,’ has more jam-packed into its space than its predecessor, a weight that is carries very well. An electric guitar banters in the backdrop as Sedgwick provides an equally strong vocal performance in the second track, but this time, without auto-tune accents. The track is more pop-oriented, perhaps reminiscent of The Wombats or the like.
Of course, it’s very much worth noting that Sedgwick wrote, performed, and produced the entirety of ‘Pacifico’ in three different cities across the world. It’s a truly solo effort. This becomes increasingly impressive as the album continues, offering insights into Sedgwick’s incredibly broad range. If ‘Midnight In Echo’ may sound like its off the cutting room floor of a Wombats session, the melancholy, haunting, piano-led ‘Robyn On The Couch’ sounds like it’s off a Francis and the Lights record.
‘Pacifico’ is a record best listened to with quality headphones or monitors, something that’s most obvious on ‘Saturnalia,’ a gorgeous soundscape chock-full of intricacy that bolts in and out of both sides of the stereo mix. It’s short and sweet, but lovely - even if it is loudly mastered. ‘Saturnalia’ will require the listener to pull their speakers to half the volume they may have been at when listening to ‘Robyn On The Couch.’
With romance at the thematic forefront of ‘Pacifico,’ ‘Oh, Starry Night’ is one of the more sublime pieces of music that gives Sedgwick space to work through the emotions of a tragic relationship. He seems deeply in love with the person ‘Oh, Starry Night’ is penned to, but there was a rift in the relationship, a poisonous death knell, that Sedgwick hints at throughout.
The jangly, borderline bluegrass-pop style ‘Mandy Moore’ may steal the show on ‘Pacifico,’ however, giving Sedgwick’s album some much needed levity. There hasn’t been a mandolin riff this infectious since Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ or Paul McCartney’s ‘Dance Tonight.’ On the opposite end, ‘Fresh Cut Grass’ is a compelling naval-gazing experience set to a sparse, but effective electric guitar without any percussion.
‘Next Round of Rum,’ a demo that was never supposed to make the record, is an interesting amalgamation of synthesized and traditional instruments in a bubbly, pop-heavy jam. It doesn’t have the weight of its predecessors, but it’s a fun ride accented by very thick synth pads. The finale of the album, ‘Holding On At The Start Of Summer,’ is a superb closer, too, a lengthy track that perfectly complements the opener, ‘Tortoiseshell Sky.’ (It has a fantastic hip hop verse, too.)
‘Pacifico’ is a beautiful record through and through. It’s remarkably rare to see an independent artist with this cohesive of a debut album. Aside from ‘Next Round Of Rum,’ which is a demo, anyway, the album doesn’t have any fat to trim. That’s very unique. It’s well worth the time of any indie music fan; it jams half a dozen genres into one and, amazingly, it works.