Album Review: Sea Caves – Bright Forest

My time spent in the Pacific Northwest is pretty limited and by limited I mean that the only outside parts of the region were seen through windows of the plane and car as I prepared for my friend’s wedding. What I do remember from that short weekend was the beautiful landscapes and scenery I got a peek at while I was carted around. I’ve wanted to go back for a proper visit ever since but it always seems as if one thing or another has kept me from doing so. Thankfully Portland’s own Sea Caves’ new album is full of lush soundscapes that transport me there until I get the chance to go again.

Album opener and Bright Forest’s first single, “Spanning the River” starts out with some acoustic guitars and flute immediately letting their listeners know that this isn’t the folk music you’ve become accustomed to. The track is both melancholy and bright and bubbly, something that so many bands wouldn’t be able to pull off but Sea Caves does it with gusto. Their secret? Intricate layers of different instruments weaving around singer, Shiloh Halsey’s airy vocals.

The aptly titled “Islands” feels like it would be right at home blasting through a stereo as you play in the waves of the Pacific. The opening guitar riff mixed with the drums makes it so you can almost smell the salt water filling your nostrils. Like the album’s opening track, the verses feel calm and collected while the chorus is a burst of energy. You fail to notice just how many layers of music there are to peel away the first time through but a closer look yields something new with each listen.

Halsey’s fascination with nature’s enchantment and how it plays a role in our own personal stories shines through nicely on Bright Forest. Close your eyes and get lost in the soundscapes created by Sea Caves and you can see the natural landscapes that inspired each track. And like nature, there’s a sense of mystery, beauty and, at times, tragedy laced throughout. A great example of a song with all these elements is “Fault Lines.” A chipper plucking of acoustic guitar floats under the more ominous flute. Once you listen to the lyrics, you’ll realize that the upbeat sound is contrary to the song’s meaning. “Tall mountains thundered over / As we all stumbled to the lake  / The air was swift and sending / Messages and warnings to our heads.” Once again, Sea Caves create a vivid image as Halsey sings about an earthquake that levels a town but “Fault Lines” isn’t just about the catastrophe created by nature, but the new beginnings it creates for the town.

While there’s a lot to enjoy about Bright Forest, what I love the most is the fact that I can turn the album on and completely get lost in it. And while I may not have gotten to actually experience much of the Pacific Northwest, Sea Caves manage to paint a vivid image that, at times, feels so real that I can almost reach out and touch it.

Bright Forest is out February 5th.