Prepare to forget the Seahaven you know and probably love, because they aren’t the same band releasing Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only. When a group decides to change their approach the result often garners a mixed response, partly because of jaded fans and also because of sceptical critics. Thankfully I am neither, and I loved the route Seahaven opted for on their second full-length, which differs massively from 2011’s brilliant Winter Forever and the equally brilliant Ghost, both of which displayed far less subtle changes.
Where Seahaven’s past releases where often intense and fuelled Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only is much more relaxed and coasting. Think Honey Bee with less heartbreak and more harmony, because that stripped back approach is utilised for the majority of the record, and it works surprisingly well, making for a release that oozes maturity, and it’s a huge step up that really sets the band apart – if they weren’t already. A lot of the charm comes from this laid back approach, and the title is wholly fitting, because Reverie Lagoon is a record to find peace and solace in. It’s rarely explosive and it’s almost always easy listening bar a few throwback tracks. For the most part Seahaven take a listener on a journey, pulling them along gently with the current whilst never pushing them under, and to an extent Reverie Lagoon is a digital bath, a pool of shimmering and polished indie rock reminiscent of early 2000’s Death Cab For Cutie that makes for an audio feast thanks to expert production and several interesting tweaks and additions. Sure, it isn’t quite as mellowing as say, Sigur Rós, but there’s a soothing comfort in the dreamscapes that Seahaven bring to life in their music, and from an artistic standpoint the record is a vibrant tapestry. However, this new-found sound means that if you were a fan of past works you might be disappointed, but if you can appreciate musical progression and respect a bold change in direction then chances are you’ll greatly enjoy Reverie Lagoon. Over the past few days I’ve seen a fair share of positive and negative responses, but for me the bands third record was one I enjoyed thoroughly.
Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only eases itself in with opener Fifty-Four, which lies thick with a hazy ambience before following track Andreas perks up, beginning with simple electric guitars and adding layers before gentle vocals come in, twisting in time with the instrumentals that sit beside them as vocalist Kyle Soto sings ‘You’ll hate her forevermore, you’ll love her the same / and she’ll never understand no/ because life seems to work that way’ before an emphatic final minute. A lot of the tracks on Reverie Lagoon unfold in this relatively subtle manner, beginning basic and slowly climbing, but despite following a certain formula each brings something new in its own way, and for a fifty-two minute record the quality is pleasingly consistent. However, despite containing fourteen tracks the record does contain some filler, most notably on both parts of Paseo De Las Estrellas (which translates to ‘walk of stars’ if you were wondering, I know I was) which don’t bring a whole lot apart from some interesting atmospherics to match their namesake. The longer tracks are where Reverie Lagoon really shines, with a few songs surpassing the five minute mark – something Seahaven have done a few times in the past. That being said, every track that isn’t a traditional sort of interlude or stopgap is excellent, and maybe separating them with a few mismatched selections puts their quality into perspective. Take lead single Silhouette (Latin Skin) which was my personal favourite, flickering before a blissful chorus that inspires elation despite its reserved nature, eventually fading out only to spark back into life with sing-song vocals. Love To Burn is another highlight, although that adjective could be applied to a good majority of Reverie Lagoon, offering some of the records best escapism lyrics with immaculately composed instrumentals, starting delicate and reaching a huge and gorgeously layered crescendo a few minutes later to provide one of the records best moments which sadly ends too soon. It’s hard to picture the same band releasing Thank You three years ago, but that’s a testament to how well Seahaven have pulled off the transition. There are shades of the bands heavier past material, although they’re few and far between, with the most prominent addition being eighth track Flesh, the records meatiest song (sorry). Writhing guitars and plodding drums give way to a large and catchy chorus which is trademark Winter Forever and sounds just as good, opting for a more aggressive sound. Whereas on the bands last release the acoustic Honey Bee sounded out-of-place it’s this track that stands out on Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only – although it still fits. Piano driven slow-burner Solar Eclipse is a vulnerable and moving contrast, being a stellar track (sorry), whilst the acoustic Highway Blues is deliciously catchy and calming, highlighting Soto’s airy delivery which is excellent and distinct throughout. His unusual vocal style suits the tone well as he almost murmurs through the tracks, echoing on On The Floor and matching the darker mood of the creeping Wild West Selfishness effortlessly, providing less whine and more whimsy. The record closes with final two tracks Karma Consequential and Four-Eleven, the former of which is another lengthy and majestic entry that saunters elegantly whilst the latter is a ghosting closer that mirrors the opener, capping off a sublime album neatly.
It’s different, but it’s still brilliant, and with Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only Seahaven have turned their ship around and steered it towards calmer seas, coming of age in the process. The record is immersive and adventurous in a way that Seahaven have never really been, and it sees them branch out and do so in fine fashion. Admittedly it may not be to everyone’s taste, but at its blissful best the record is one to absolutely lose yourself in, and the band should be commended for not sticking to the formula that previously defined them.
Rating – 9/10
Listen to: Silhouette (Latin Skin) / Flesh / Love To Burn