Sea Wolf: A Life Autumnal

By Charlotte Freccia ’19

Autumn is a bittersweet season, one in which time and nature slow down as they stretch toward the winter. Leaves flourish and fall, winds whistle and howl, and the individual must face the inevitable changing of seasons, changing of years. The drowsy, dreamy state of mind of autumn recollects long walks in colorful woods, leaves crunching underfoot, and the poetry of Robert Frost. Often, these recollections are accompanied by a soundtrack of the subtle acoustics and pastoral lyrical imagery of the indie-folk genre. Maybe it’s because the album artwork of this genre is especially evocative of the season (peep Bon Iver and The Head and the Heart), but for whatever reason, when autumn approaches I find myself craving simple songs about love and loss and falling leaves sung by bearded men with six-string guitars.

This fall has been no exception, and I’ve found my comfort in the chilly days in thick socks, hot tea, and Sea Wolf, an indie outfit anchored by Californian singer-songwriter Alex Church. Sea Wolf may, on the surface, appear to be your standard indie-folk band: songs like “Bergamont Morning” and “Young Bodies” make use of intricate guitar patterns and extensive vocal harmonies and call to mind acts such as Iron and Wine and Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos. However, there’s something that feels so intimate and deep about Church’s music: listening to Sea Wolf makes me feel like I’m alone in the world and my only earthly connection is to this disembodied voice which is at once honey-smooth and burning-wood rustic.

It’s clear that Church takes cues from nature and literature in his music: not only is the name Sea Wolf taken from a novel of the same name by Jack London, but the influence of the work of fellow Californian John Steinbeck is pervasive throughout Sea Wolf’s discography. Allusions to nature are frequent in both song and album titles as well as lyrics: Church uses the sound of gently-falling rain to particularly gorgeous––and devastating––effect in “Leaves in the River,” a subtle but deeply-felt song about falling in love with a girl at a Halloween party. There are some songs that you just know sound better played in the rain (The Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice, for example, or Burgh Island by Ben Howard) but in “Leaves in the River,” rain becomes a part of the song, just as sweet and impactful as the guitars or the percussion or the voice.

As the days grow shorter and cooler, the melancholia of the early winter is bound to set in. Listening to Sea Wolf won’t make you feel any lighter or freer, but it may make you feel like there’s someone out there who feels like you do, and that person is blessedly more gifted at articulating the futile feelings of fall, the moody blueness of the final season.

Key Tracks:  Cedarsmoke, The Garden That You Planted, Leaves in the River, Middle Distance Runner
For Fans Of: Alexi Murdoch, M. Ward, Blind Pilot, any band previously cited in this article, people with ears, people with feelings