White Sea: Tropical Odds – Album Review
White Sea: Tropical Odds
Released May 12 2017
New album by ex-M83 alumni……Ian Canty dusts himself down and emerges from the crypt in order to listen to some of that confounded “modern” pop music…….
White Sea are a new name to me, so a little swotting up was required. The pseudonym of Alaskan native Morgan Kibby, in 2003 she released an EP under her own name entitled Beggar’s Alchemy and then was part of a strange Indie/Classical hybrid band called the Romanovs in the early part of this millennium. After 4 years she left them in 2007 to perform with hugely popular French electronic band M83. Her tenure with them encompassed their acclaimed Hurry Up We’re Dreaming LP which even got a Grammy nomination, as well as many tours of the globe. In addition to this fruitful collaboration she also found time for work with people like Mark Ronson and remix various high profile recording artists including the likes of Ms B. Spears and Ellie Golding. Added to that, in her tea break I imagine, she soundtracked the film Bang Gang as well. So a very busy bee indeed.
Breaking away from all these other activities in 2014 she began work on this solo project, with the first White Sea offering In Cold Blood arriving in 2014. What we have here in Tropical Odds is the follow up and a pure electropop delight it is indeed. White Sea here has produced what I imagine is one of the most commercial releases ever on Les Disques Du Crepuscule, but also one of depth and class.
Now I would never dream of casting myself as some sort of expert on “modern pop music” but from the snatches I hear now and then on the radio and TV etc what White Sea/Kibby offer here is a class above most artists operating at present in that sphere. For a start she has a pristine and clear voice and manages to use it effectively without showing off or over singing. Her songs also have a keen eye for detail and hard truths, rather than the simple-minded smokescreen of the more cynical Pop outfits. The vocals combine perfectly with the musical backdrop of electronic beats to construct a delicate, gorgeous dream pop landscape that shifts from the sparsely arranged One Bad Eye to the more full sounding and upbeat Never A Woman (which for some unknown reason reminded me a bit of Robert Palmer circa Looking For Clues, well in its instrumentation anyway).
The breathy, euphoric Ellipses is a real gem here and despite the hedonism implied by the title, Stay Young, Get Stoned has more to do with the slowed down, sad chill of the 4AD label than any party ravers. Gangster No. 1 is a beautifully sung piece of good old fashioned, rollicking pop music and set closer Lessons seems to even have a slight country tinge built into its electronic pulse, a little Americana in the machine.
For the most part Tropical Oddsis chilled, laidback pop with uplifting vocal melodies and deep set sense of regret and longing. There is a sorrowful background for every groove driven rush of optimism and light, captured here is the remorse of a clubber, the wronged soul, the poor people caught in the middle, the morning after. She sings “resisting was pointless” in Yesterday (nothing to do with the ubiquitous Macca tune), a sad, sad song of the end of a love affair, but it’s done with class. Though sounding great and full of brio, White Sea has clearly had to learn some hard lessons along the way.
This record certainly wouldn’t be out of place in the charts and it would definitely up the quality on offer if it was. I would say that White Sea do deserve that sort of success given the evidence on show. Tropical Odds is as classy a 2017 Pop album as I’ve heard.
White Sea are on Facebook here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here