A brilliant 13 song offering released in late 2014, Once, Forever & Again by London-based The See See showcases the band’s latest sonic journeys, and is the subject of this week’s Pop Focus. Once, Forever & Again, The See See’s third full-length studio effort, finally breaks some ground and gains a little traction in the big wide open USA. There’s an intensity in the band’s delivery that sets it apart from most neo-vintage acts; a nebulous “convincing” factor that makes these tunes ‘burst’ from the speakers. The songs speak to your imagination, and invite you to dream of days gone by, and days yet to come.
Songs on Once, Forever & Again are beautifully written, well-crafted, wonderfully melodic music. Comparative band names thrown at these guys include The Byrds, The Beatles, and even The Kinks; The See See are an original amalgamation of influences and don’t clearly sound like a clone of any of those. Distilled without filler, songs don’t stick around if they don’t have to, are not noodly, and there aren’t really any superfluous “dead spaces”. Tunes are complete, not lacking instrumental passages despite their brevity. It’s nice that the band doesn’t forgo instrumental work in favor of “just sung verses and choruses”. The recording sounds both “live” and “genuine analog”, for those who prefer that texture. Overall, the songs amble on an amiable, bright, sometimes bittersweet jaunt. Beautifully sequenced, the disc has a vivid, intuitive, natural flow. It’s a relaxing, easygoing, peaceful record, in the “my days aren’t perfect, but I’m decently happy with just being alive” sense.
From the “summer song” vibe of “Featherman” to the jangly, upbeat “Big, Bad Storm”, Once, Forever & Again features a sound which is first and foremost, moving. It’s a little loose, very warm, engaging, and inviting. The band is skilled at conveying mood and emotion. “400 Miles” and “Once, Forever & Again” have most easily lodged themselves into memory. “400 Miles” sticks poignantly for it’s tearful loneliness or sadness and unforgettable melody line, and “Once, Forever & Again” for it’s poetic lyric, vintage vibe, and overall composition.
Said to be the band’s “signature song”, “Once, Forever & Again” incorporates most of the foundational elements of The See See’s music. It thus deserves special and careful listener attention. It’s an uptempo romp, incorporating many elements right away: astute use of melody and harmony, a clean guitar lead line, a keyboard lead line seemingly played through mild distortion, poetic and well- written lyrics, a multi-part vocal harmony, vintage “full” and “analog” drum sound, and the dynamic between verses and choruses. It’s a very psychedelic, reflective song that really transports you back to a sunny day gone by, a different musical era. “Big Bad Storm” is very melodic, jangly, and upbeat. The verses are a bit more catchy then the choruses. Vocal harmonies are lush and abundant here. Like other songs on the album, it’s not excessively long, nor does it stretch motifs into “endless jams”. There’s some very interesting key modulation (and organ layering) in the instrumental bridges and coda. Previously released on 7″ vinyl, “The Rain and The Snow”, is one of the band’s break-out singles. It is richly melodic, with the full band represented quickly. This is one of the songs that might make you remember how you felt when you listened to your folks’ album collection: it’s deliciously psychedelic, shimmering, euphonic, and vintage. Halfway through the song, the ‘bass boost’ kicks in and you can really appreciate some of the bass guitar lines. “Sun Arrows” starts with acoustic guitar layered under peaceful, airy guitar and vocal harmony. Mellow and laid-back, it’s a fantastic ‘chill out’ tune. The final tune on the album is “Song For Billy Nova”. Relaxed in tempo, it begins with piano, and quickly evolves into a harmony-rich, vocal-forward, airy tune. At six minutes, this is the longest song on disc by far. The introduction’s piano solo is repeated halfway through the tune, keeping it mellow and from getting too poppy. It fades out on a vocal harmony.
As a plus, Once, Forever & Again‘s album art is beautiful. It is colorful, crisp, and tasteful. The modern, clean composition is a wonderful change of pace from the self-portraits, dour-looking bandmembers standing against walls, and dark fantasy art. While somewhat psychedelic, shiny pop music as this might not be for everyone, it sure works as prime listening fodder for those rare gems of breezy, content, sunny days. The See See’s previous full-length effort, Fontayne Mountain, released in 2012, has many characteristics that the band chose to carry forward: the multiple lead vocal lines with rich and agreeable harmonies, clean guitar lead, keyboard prominence, shorter song lengths, and analog drum sound. Some of Fontayne Mountain‘s vocal phrasing is slightly more eclectic and folksy, and some of the instrumentation is a bit heavier or fuzzier, and more modern. Once, Forever & Again represents a slight refinement, but is in no way an abandonment of their ‘signature’ sound. Some of the delivery is more modern-tinged then your ears would have you believe at first blush, so, give the album at least a few spins. Let your ears soak in all the jangly pop goodness. This disc will be a treat to any fan of The See See from previous years, as well as for fans who have just discovered the band.
Once, Forever & Again
Big Bad Storm
The Rain & The Snow
Over & Under
Let Me Be The One
The Evil Clutch Of Dawn
Song For Billy Nova