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(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)

  Halfway to You  
  Words on Music  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  bill E. joel  

Let's say there's a band out there that is really good. They have an eponymous look, sound and tone. If you are Coastal, how do you follow the successful blueprint set out by this band without simply being a tribute act? Has your progenitor so filled the field that there is no room for exposition on the theme, or is there room for other voices? Halfway to You answers these questions.

This disc starts like Low, with married male and female voices over sparse instrumentation, consisting usually of plain guitar/bass with rudimentary drums. In addition to following the Low sound, Coastal takes a similar path with lyrics that are generally focused on relationships and separation, love and loss. It is an evocative, contemplative sound performing quiet, calm songs. Each song is stripped down to its essence, so that every note is heard, and therefore every note matters. There is a compelling intimacy to both the music and the lyrics. The quietness of this method commands your attention much in the way someone who really wants you to pay attention will not yell, but speak softly. The biggest risk of this style is becoming quasi easy listening folky treacle, and that risk is largely avoided here.

Coastal answers the questions posed above by showing that there is room to work within a Low orbit. They expand on the blueprint by adding more diverse instrumentation and a larger sonic palette, including studio effects and sonic manipulation. The disc demonstrates a progression, starting softly and simply and marching on to stronger and more forceful statements of their intention.

The guitar and voice on the first track, Until you sleep, get off to a good start, but unfortunately, the tinkly synths seem out of place and threaten to send it off to tweeland. Eternal follows, and features treated vocals with acoustic guitar and keyboards. Next, the tempo kicks up and the drums assert themselves on the title track, with the vocals suggesting a long distance phone call. Leaves features more manipulated vox, electric guitar and bass that all increase the intensity and depth of sound. And it is here that the album really begins to hit its stride.

Track 5 is instrumental and points out an interesting effect... With the heightened level of attention that this music generates, I found myself waiting for something to happen. Unfortunately, not much does. On later listens, knowing that this track does not really progress makes it function less well than the rest. We won't last another year explicates the lyrical themes discussed above, and features glockenspiel accents.

Track 7 starts with big synth washes and leads into echoing drums and guitars which create a lush soundscape for Together in love. London in february uses back masking, field recordings of half heard conversations and ambient sounds to good effect. So close ends the disc and follows the familiar form of quiet guitar and softly sung vocals, with a lyrical complaint of "I can't sleep without you." However, then it has an extended coda of velvety riffing, underwater guitars, and a repeated oboe figure, which is mesmerizing and hypnotic. An excellent finish.

Related Links:

Words On Music on the web, with some MP3s (under the Soounds page), and an ordering link


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