Album Reviews: Cannibal Sea by The Essex GreenBrooklyn-based band The Essex Green's third album, Cannibal Sea, is a springtime skip through the park. Don't be fooled by their zip code -- this trio of songwriters (Chris Ziter, Sasha Bell, and Jeff Baron) wear their country-pop hearts on their flannel sleeves, and flash their Vermont and Ohio roots with pride. You can practically hear the lush fields and amber waves of grain beckoning these troubadours to come back home. It's the kind of record you could hear in the background of the natural food store or co-op in a mid-sized college town somewhere on the east coast.
"Penny and Jack" is the quintessential Essex Green track, encompassing everything that works about their folk-pop harmonies. The male vocalist tells the female character's side of the story, followed by his side as told by her. This rollicking he said/she said is the highlight of the album. "Sin City" and "Cardinal Points" are other examples of The Essex Green's fertile melodies at their best.
Everything old is new again, with the sounds of The Byrds, The Mamas & the Papas, and even The Monkees mixed in here, with a few dashes of current indie pop influences like The Shins. If there's a cloud in this sunny sky, it'd be the lack of progression in these tunes. Perhaps the homage to the past has stalled their growth as songwriters. At times Cannibal Sea sounds more retro than timeless ("Elsinore" and "Slope Song"). But for the majority of its running time, it's a pleasant and quiet little work populated with characters exploring their boundaries and looking for their place in the world. - Jeff Kamin
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