Album Reviews

The Delines – The Sea Drift

(Decor) UK release date: 11 February 2022

The Delines - The Sea Drift The Sea Drift is the third album by Portland-based five-piece The Delines and sees them expand on their 2019 breakthrough album The Imperial while upholding certain longstanding creative qualities. The name of the album is linked to its connection to the Gulf Coast of the United States, which is the location for the stories told within the songs, and as on their previous albums, vivid storytelling is once again key.

The creative force behind these songs and stories is Willy Valutin, frontman of esteemed alt-country outfit Richmond Fontaine and successful author in his own right (he’s just published his sixth novel). His lyrics are one of three central pillars that make up the music of The Delines, the others being Amy Boone’s soulful vocals and the meticulous, sumptuous musical arrangements that softly envelop them.

Opening track Little Earl takes us straight into one of these imagined worlds, sharing a story of a robbery-gone-wrong that sees the main character driving in search for a hospital for his brother who “is bleeding in the backseat”. Later, Boone tells us how “he’s looking for a hospital even though his brother don’t want him to, he’s starting to panic, he’s too scared to stop, he’s never driven at night and he keeps getting lost”. It’s the first of many suspenseful narrative excursions, all wrapped up in the bronzed, warm brass that defines much of the album. We might not learn the final outcome to the story but it doesn’t matter, the joy of much of the music of The Delines involves temporarily dropping into the worlds of others, getting a brief taste of their life and circumstances, then moving on to the next episode.

Similar follows on Kid Codeine, which recounts the true story of a hard-living couple (her a bartender, him an ex-boxer) that Richmond Fontaine met on one of their first tours back in the 1990s. Valutin’s words and Boone’s vocals once again colourfully bring the characters to life, (“hair in a perfect bouffant just to walk down the street, her boyfriend was a boxer, he named her ‘Kid Codeine’, ‘cause nothing ever makes her mad, she’s always cool and easy”).

Further highlights appear on the likes of Hold Me Slow and Past The Shadows, both having a late-night suitability. The former is all understated hooks and breathy delivery, the latter a stirringly evocative three minutes that recalls early Lambchop, especially in the warm glow imparted by the brass. Later, the skeletal Surfers In Twilight has a quiet drama that is amplified by the surrounding space and silence while it’s impossible not to be moved on the decelerated All Along The Ride when Boone repeatedly emotively concedes “I’ve been trying my whole life to get a thicker skin”.

The whole album has a golden sheen to it and the sense of care and attention invested in its creation shines through. As we’ve come to expect with The Delines, The Sea Drift offers polished songwriting, backed up by even further polished performances. In short, it’s another set of beautifully crafted sound portraits, rich in detail, in which to both decompress and luxuriate.

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The Delines – The Sea Drift