Sea Change (LP) By Corey Stapleton and The Pretty Pirates
As much as I can enjoy the way Corey Stapleton sings next to a guitar part, I’d be lying if I said the piano element in his new album Sea Change, with The Pretty Pirates backing him, isn’t the real star of the instrumentation here.
“Western Son,” one of the record’s biggest singles, is built on the back of its enigmatic piano harmonies, and whether buried in the master mix or adjoined to Stapleton’s every poetic word, the keys are never too far out of view for the best performances in Sea Change. It’s a multifaceted recording, but one you can find the most profound moments in without a lot of hunting; “The Pen,” “Western Son,” even the title track sports an accessible hook that unfolds to us right out of the gate rather than over the course of a long, drawn-out progressive arrangement Aside from a rather bloated performance in “Kabul’s Fallen,” Corey Stapleton & The Pretty Pirates give us as good a debut as any you’re going to hear in the mainstream this spring, all while making their conceptual approach sound and look pretty simplistic.
Lyrical abilities are the cornerstone of every successful singer/songwriter’s story, and they’re un-holstered liberally in Sea Change. “The Coin” and “My First Rodeo. Not.” are two of the best verse-driven works here, but they don’t steal anything from the thunderous instrumental faceting beneath “Make This Work” and “The Darkest Point.” It can be difficult finding a good balance between themes and elements when you’re recording your first album, but Stapleton has such a swagger to his voice that it’s clear he isn’t scared to try things that a lot of his peers might just as soon turn away from out of fear that they might make a career-ending mistake. I like how this player is fearless with his ambitions, especially in melodic climaxes ala “As the Crow Flies” or its tracklist neighbor in “New Me,” and if he can spend a little more time getting his complete act tighter, with or without The Pretty Pirates, he’s going to be hard for even his more talented contemporaries to stop. His presence is off the charts here, and part of the reason why I wanted to cover Sea Change as soon after it came out as I did.
Corey Stapleton absolutely crushes this debut offering with all the right organic elements to keep alternative folk/pop and indie rock connoisseurs alike very happy this April, and even if it takes him an extra minute to line up a proper sequel to Sea Change, I think it’s going to be worth it just to hear what he can do when he’s truly at full power. Sea Change is bursting at the seams with a lot of sonic depth that could have been explored more, but what it teases for its creator is probably the most important component of its glamor. Stapleton is an honest player, and this is a record that reflects that without ever skipping a beat.