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Sean Duncan’s Impressive Debut


Sean Duncan’s first solo release Saturated Diluted is a surprising blend of acoustic and electronic elements. Some tracks (“Vultures With Human Hands”) show a heavy ‘80s electronic influence, while others (“The Story of Betty”) give off more acoustic/singer-songwriter vibes. Nevertheless, Saturated Diluted maintains a consistent aesthetic with the beauty of Duncan’s vocals and lyrics.

The instrumentation of Saturated Diluted is unexpected; each track has a sound all its own. The first track, “Everything is Sinking Pt 1,” sets the groundwork from which the album then takes off. The song feels very typical singer/songwriter at its start, with heavy use of the acoustic guitar. Yet, as the song progresses, more electronic elements are introduced. At about three-quarters into the track, there’s a quick build to an explosion of sound with the addition of the drums and electric guitar. Long-forgotten are the acoustic vibes from the beginning of the track. From that eclectic beginning, each song that follows goes off in its own direction.

The final track of the album, “Everything is Sinking Pt 2,” opens with spacey synth sounds and is quickly paired with the electric guitar. The track continues in this way until almost 2 minutes in, where everything fades away. We are left with the acoustic guitar and vocals, which doesn’t last very long. Once the chorus arrives, a heavily percussive outburst of sound takes over with the lyrics, “Everything is sinking … Everything is dying”.  (At this point in the track, I really wish I had better speakers to get the full effect.) Towards the track’s end, the explosive instrumentation slowly fades away as the acoustic guitar closes out the song. The album could not be ended any better.

Along with the diverse instrumentation, the crisp vocals and thoughtful lyrics glue the album together. Sean Duncan’s voice has the tonal qualities of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. The clarity of Duncan’s voice enables listeners easy access to the lyrics of the album. “The Story of Betty” provides the best example of the beautiful, raw lyrics. The track tells the story a lonely woman “all by herself / with just her thoughts / to keep her company”. As the song progresses, we find out that a man that was coming to meet her arrives and the song closes with the lyric– “he kisses her goodnight/ as he pulls her finger from/ the trigger.” It is unclear whether that means Betty committed suicide, and the ambiguous nature of the lyrics serve to make it even more poetic. The primarily acoustic guitar instrumentation pairs well with the thought-provoking lyrics.

Sean Duncan’s self- written, recorded, mixed and mastered album Saturated Diluted is an impressive combination of unique sounds, solid vocals, and gripping lyrics.–Krisann Janowitz