Of all the geographical features to inspire music, the ocean must be largely concurrent with good music. From Dirty Three with Ocean Songs, and now to The Battle of Land and Sea – the ocean is rendered beautifully in musical form. On their debut album, the aptly named duo delves into a set of delicate, sea-inspired folk songs that fits neatly between the voice of Cat Power and the guitar work of Mazzy Star.
Sarah O’Shura, the chief songwriter in the American duo, paints a mysterious figure. Her voice is intimately quiet; her lyrics weaved by stories of her past. The verses drip with dark melancholy, somewhat out of place on a record imbued with summery guitar tones. You’ll only notice its dark undercurrent if you’re paying close attention though, and it’s evidence of the dreaminess on The Battle of Land and Sea’s debut that the tracks segue into one another with little fanfare. It’s an easy, pleasing listen that confines itself to whispers and hushes. Sometimes it’s a little too quiet – the softened tones and quiet finger-picking on album closer ‘You Are A Sailor’ wash over with very little effect. Those with low attention spans won’t find much to enjoy in this record.
The many facets of this record may be marked by darker themes, but ignore its lyrical content and you’d never know. There’s nothing gloomy about ‘Saltwater Queen’ – a song that sounds made for perfect sunny days at the coast, and the warm, endless summer nights. The echoed slide guitar that sidelines this and most of the other tracks on this record lifts it from being just another American folk album – it’s an amazing inclusion that gives the album its musical ingenuity and gives Sarah’s story its paper to write on.
I can imagine finding this record abandoned in some charity shop, a 50p relic in an array of other forgotten ‘60s folk albums. Modern production aside, it would be easy to believe that this was recorded 40 years ago – such is its non-reliance on modern musical trends. It’s also easy to imagine the duo wrote the album while stranded on a lonely island off the coast of America, with only their guitars and their memories for company. The result: an album of blissful folk music and mysterious lyrical lamentations; an album, then, truly worthy of the tape it’s been recorded on.
8Ben Yates's Score