Even though Todd Kessler‘s band is called The New Folk, the sound of Sea Fever is closer to the ornate acoustic pop of Andrew Belle and David Mead. Although some might balk at this, this is no qualm with me: I’m a fan of this style when it’s done well. And Kessler does it well, neatly balancing complex arrangements with a vocals-centric focus. At times this leads him into very precise, Andrew Bird-esque territory (“First Sip,” “Intangible”)–especially with the plucked violin that these tunes employ.
Tunes like “Zen Lunatics” and “Holes in the Floor” sit other end of the spectrum, employing crunchy distorted guitars and stomping rhythms. It’s not rock, per se–the theatrical “Holes in the Floor” employs careening, burlesque horns–but it’s certainly not delicate indie-pop either. The most memorable turns come when Kessler splits the difference, toning down some of the more intricate arrangements while also not going full-on pop blast. “Oh Brother” and single “Hallelujah” live in this space, and it’s a good one for him.
Kessler’s pop hooks and arrangements are both very strong, making Sea Fever a release that fans of thoughtful pop music definitely should invest time in. I look forward to seeing what Kessler comes up with next.