Folk-pop 5 piece Seagulls released their debut album Great Pine February 3rd under Maryland label Yellow K Records. The Pennsylvania natives are known for their beautiful harmonies and surf rock tendencies; it’s hard to imagine that the album was recorded in a cabin engulfed in the back country of West Virginia. Headed by singer songwriter Matt Whittle and coming in at just under 30 minutes long, Great Pine is an attempt at mixing not only surf and folk dimensions, but also dream pop as well.
Whittle along with vocalist Natalie Vogel combine to create harmonies which add up to be the best aspect of Seagulls debut LP, unfortunately they have trouble formulating interesting instrumental layouts as backdrops. It’s hard gaging the band’s self-proclaimed surf sound because while the familiar reverb heavy glimmer is there, it seems as though Seagulls use it as a crutch in songs like “You and Me” and “Old Habits”, dragging the songs lethargically on through subdued repetition. A sweet, simple song is nice every once in a while but by the end of Great Pine I felt canker sores starting to form in my mouth and had to rush for a glass of water.
While the lead singer’s voice is magnetic, I would have enjoyed hearing Natalie Vogel lead a song or two, especially “Love, Give”, a song in which her voice is particularly mesmerizing but only heard in pockets. The singing and harmonies are great, the filler brass and digital ambiance is pleasant, but the overall structural layout from song to song is too similar and safe for any one track to really stand out.
Sugar, sugar, sugar is what you get with Seagulls debut LP, Great Pine. In an attempt at reaching for particularly differing sounds like surf and folk, they created a bubble, preventing them from excelling in any area. Saved by their singing, particularly the harmonies between Whittle and Vogel, Great Pine comes across as an okay pop album at best. Perhaps when the band decides to focus their energy more intensely on a certain sound, they will find that their overall output is less predictable and more enjoyable. A surf-folk-dream-pop album, crafted in a cabin, curdled in the backwoods of West Virginia, the excitement was real, as was the disappointment.