Whisper it quietly, but in their own understated, unassuming way Turin Brakes have been one of the most influential bands in the UK over the past couple of decades. Their 2001 debut The Optimist LP heralded the return of simple, undemanding but tuneful acoustic pop after long periods dominated by gloomy indie, dance-influenced Madchester and swaggering Britpop. It may not have been a smash hit, but you could bet your house that Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Mumford & Sons all own a copy.
Hailing from the unlikely environs of Bridlington, East Yorkshire, youthful duo Seafret are the latest act aiming to emulate the success of the names mentioned above. Together since meeting at a local open mic night back in 2011, last year’s Oceans EP brought them to the attention of Zane Lowe and established them as ones to watch, with a tour supporting James Bay indicative of their mainstream potential. Now, polished debut long player Tell Me It’s Real sees singer Jack Sedman and multi-instrumentalist Harry Draper ready to take on a crowded field, including – funnily enough – the very same Turin Brakes, who have just released their sixth album.
There’s no doubt Seafret have all the right ingredients to make an impact. There’s an effortless natural flow to their songs, usually constructed around gently plucked acoustic guitar and Sedman’s passionate vocals, with some subtle electronics and gliding strings adding occasional extra sonic ballast. Opener Missing sets the formula from the start, beginning quietly before going up a gear half a minute or so in and then building to a soaring crescendo. It’s all produced with a clinical sheen that makes it perfect for radio play lists and by and large, Tell Me It’s Real doesn’t deviate from this blueprint.
Initially at least, highlights are therefore a little hard to pinpoint, as the whole record is similar in style, with the quality never really significantly dipping below or rising above a certain very listenable but unremarkable level.
But after a few listens, some songs do begin to stand out more. Give Me Something, the title track on their first EP, shows they can be haunting and subdued, while in contrast Oceans is Seafret at their most epic and expansive. Skimming Stones has a surging, uplifting chorus of the kind that has made Mumford & Sons so ubiquitous; There’s A Light’s chiming, almost hymn-like dynamic recalls Coldplay’s later albums. To The Sea – a duet with singer/songwriter Rosie Carney – is a mournful ballad with a slight country feel; the addition of a second voice acting as a welcome counterpoint to Sedman’s earnest rasp. But over the course of 16 tracks – arguably at least three or four too many – there isn’t a great deal of variety or experimentation here, although in their defence it is still early days for Seafret and we shouldn’t be expecting Sergeant Pepper just yet.
Look up ‘Seafret’ in the dictionary and you’ll discover it’s a term for the mist that rolls inshore from the sea. In that sense the band are aptly named. This is music that slowly, almost imperceptibly gathers around you rather than sweeping you off your feet; its melodies gradually permeating rather than saturating you with their brilliance. The end result is wispily pleasant rather than life affirming, but inconsequential or not, it’s not hard to see Seafret selling a lot of records in the very near future.