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The Sea Thieves: Hidingin the Shade (CD Review)

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9 Track, LP
(2008, Inertia)

Having rehung my childhood spoon collection yesterday, there was a brief moment when my hipness was brought into question. For me, treasuring such objects was merely symbolic of a love for old things. To others, it was the same nerdish impulse one expects from die-hard stamp collectors and snakes and ladders champions.

As a former stamp-collector it’s probably best to tip-toe away from this last comment. Although I must say it was indeed a love for the old that drew me to The Sea Thieves’ Hiding in the Shade.

With this their debut album, Adelaide duo Zac Coligan and Naomi Thompson are obviously not an old group, but like many bands these days they recall the bittersweet elements of acoustic folk music and finger-pickin’ country tunes. Like these groups, they build on the trusty guitar-bass-keys-percussion line up, throwing in the odd toy piano, singing saw, ukulele and piano accordion.

Such pastiche can often be dangerous. Using too many instruments can be like using too many colours in a painting; the finished product can become vague, directionless and confusing for the listener. Fortunately, The Sea Thieves are quite sparing with each of their instruments, carefully layering each part to complement the other.

One highlight is The Catcher’s Call a sleepy southern campfire tune and opener of the album. Thompson’s whispery tin can vocals are the first inklings of the band’s delicate sound. Her leanings towards the melancholy are further embellished in Couldn’t Think That Fast and On the Stairs -”All I ever wanted was to find my way back home”.

Things get a little more active when Coligan takes the wheel. The instruments are given new life with The Only Piece of My Mind Worth Remembering and It Takes a Storm, accompanying his soft talking-to-you style vocals comparable with Augie March’s Glenn Richards.
While The Sea Thieves cite Tom Waits as their greatest musical influence, Sparklehorse and M. Ward fans will be right at home with this record.

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