Monday, August 26, 2019

Eva And The Vagabond Tales: “Uncharted Ocean” (2019) CD Review

I love music that is able to transport me in some way, and such is certainly the case with Uncharted Ocean, the new album from Eva And The Vagabond Tales. Though based in Riverside, California, this group has a beautifully timeless sound that would seem right at home in some European café. That sound has a tremendous appeal, and it is led and shaped by Eva Mikhailovna, who not only provides the vocals and composes the songs, but also plays the majority of instruments, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, bass, accordion and ukulele. Jacob Pflum is on drums and percussion, Alan Arteaga is on banjo and bass, and Jasmine Capitulo is on accordion. Charles Newman is on keys, and also co-produced the album with Eva Mikhailovna. There is also a string section adding to the beauty and emotional impact of many of these tracks. It is composed of Claudia Chopek on violin and viola, and Christian Dupree on cello. As the album’s title suggests, the ocean is a thematic element running through several of these tracks, as you can see from a glance at the track list, with songs like “Sea Will Return You,” “Shallows Of The Sea” and “The Lighthouse.”

Eva Mikhailovna’s voice is of course the first thing that strikes you as the album begins with “Demur.” There is something adorable about her voice; it has an innocence, a youthful curiosity and excitement, as well as an undeniable beauty. And the first line establishes the ocean theme: “Like a ship with no sail.” The music too is delightful, and features some nice work by Jasmine Capitulo on accordion. And then, holy moly, there is even some yodeling. There is just a hint of it a couple of times early on, but then there is some real yodeling toward the end. “Won’t you please always remember.” That is followed by “Please Keep Me,” which has a more serious tone. There is something so engaging and earnest about this music, and here she seems to be singing for everyone who is reaching out for a connection, or reaching in. “And I, I know I’m confused/But tell me what to do/Don’t leave me/I, I learned how to find/What I lost inside/Please keep me.” The lyrics to this song are so good, so touching. “And I, I stayed up every night/To see who I was inside/Am I no one?

“Silent Creatures” is one of my personal favorites. There is something so beautiful about this song, and something familiar about it. It very quickly made a home in my brain, in my heart, and I feel all the better for it. And I’m beginning to suspect that Eva Mikhailovna is one of the most talented songwriters working today. Check out lines like “If I am cursed, then aren’t we all/We’re all the same shadows falling over everyone” and “How I wish I had something/That would make me feel complete/I don’t like how you say please/’Cause it can still take everything/Even though I have nothing/That you’d ever want from me.” This song also features some wonderful work on strings. This is an album that I love more and more as it goes, and one that affects me more each time I listen to it. Jack McLoughlin plays electric guitar on this track. “Silent Creatures” is followed by “Tomorrow Comes Too Soon,” which has a fairly straightforward folk sound at the start. Then when her vocals come in, there is an endearing quality. You just want to embrace her voice, or have it embrace you. “Hold me closer/Let me know/You’re not leaving me alone.” I also love the cello.

“Thoughts” is gorgeous right from the start, sounding like it comes from a slightly different reality, slipping into our lives at night through our open windows, through our dreams. Then after a minute or so, it takes a turn, as the percussion comes in with a cheerful and unusual rhythm. There is something magical about this sound, this music. It seems to create its own space, its own universe, and invites us to drift along with it. “Sea Will Return You” has an interesting opening section, dominated by the vocals. It then kicks in to become a pleasant, bright song with a pop vibe, featuring some nice work by Alan Arteaga on banjo. Then “Heart Still Beats” begins with some ethereal vocals, then takes on an intriguing and appealing timeless otherworldly quality. Yet there is also a playful aspect to this song. The line that stood out the first time I listened to this album was “I’m going to burn down every place we were.”

The strings at the beginning of “If You Hide Me Away” are gorgeous and moving. This song too has a timeless, magical quality, and it is gentle, loving with us. “Why did we have to be so afraid/If you hide me away/I’ll wait every day/Not afraid.” Logan Coale plays upright bass on this track, and on the following track, “Shallows Of The Sea.” “Shallows Of The Sea” features another beautiful vocal performance. “You just take what you want and then you let me go/Take what you want and then you let me go/Take what you want and then you let me go/‘Cause that’s what I deserve.” Cameron Baldeon joins the group on lap steel on this track. This album then concludes with “The Lighthouse,” a song that grabs me from the moment it begins. “There’s a ball in the lighthouse tonight/Let’s have a drink with friends and foes.” I love this band’s style, its sound; it takes inspiration from the past and from some alternate present that I want to visit much more often.

CD Track List
  1. Demur
  2. Please Keep Me
  3. Silent Creatures
  4. Tomorrow Comes Too Soon
  5. Thoughts
  6. Sea Will Return You
  7. Heart Still Beats
  8. If You Hide Me Away
  9. Shallows Of The Sea
  10. The Lighthouse
Uncharted Ocean was released on CD and vinyl May 17, 2019. (Apparently the vinyl is colored sea green, which means I need to get a copy for myself.)

No comments:

Post a Comment