Music » CD Reviews

Essex Green

Cannibal Sea (Merge)


The best thing about Essex Green? It's always summer on its records, and you're 15 and in love for the first time all over again. Cannibal Sea, the third full-length from the Brooklyn trio of Sasha Bell, Chris Ziter, and Jeff Baron, is wall-to-wall angelic harmonies, jangling guitars, bubbling synths, and bewitching melodies. Some songs evoke such midsummer memories as flip-flops, summer dresses, and banana-seat bikes. Others conjure late-summer wistfulness: sepia-toned sunsets and road trips home. Travel is a theme throughout, as the songs describe escape from urban madness to sanctuary on shores real and metaphorical.

In their songwriting, the three bandmates are informed by their predecessors, yet inspired enough to avoid sounding derivative. Like audio postcards from your past, you can hear the Byrds' country rock ("Rue de Lis"), Greenwich Village folk ("Rabbit," "Slope Song"), Mamas & Papas-style harmonies ("Snakes in the Grass"), Blondie pop ("Cardinal Points"), Ray Davies' hooks ("This Isn't Farm Life," "The Pride"), and echoes of current fellow travelers like the Shins and Jans Lekman. Cannibal Sea's downside? At 40 minutes, before you know it, it's over. Just like summer.

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