Over the last seven years, frontman Matthew Hines has developed The Eastern Sea (@theeasternsea) from a simple project into a full-on, seven-person ensemble. These self-proclaimed prog-pop Austinites have taken a lot of time to develop their latest album, Plague, and it’s one of my favourites so far this year.
Plague has a highly emotionally reflective quality. The songs’ narratives are based on travels and life experiences that evoke an overall message of the inevitable changes that occur over time. Not to mention, the tones of subtle melancholy and half-spoken, half-sung style in Hines’ vocals take on a Gibbard-esque sound. However, bright, orchestral-backed chants and an array of brass laden percussive builds make this album more akin to something found in Sufjan Stevens’ discography.
Opening up with the title track, which is nearly acapella and accompanied only by a soft foundation, Plague quickly leads into the faster tempo of “Wasn’t For Love”, one of my top picks from the album. The highly rhythmic beats and catchy hooks found in “Santa Rosa”, “Central Cemetery”, and “A Lie” provide the listener with a feeling of jubilance between the more ethereal tracks like “So Long Either Way”, “There You Are”, and the closing track “The Line”.
This album is enchanting and worth listening through multiple times not only to discover its musical quality, but also its spirit and evident attention to detail. The perfectly balanced feel of the record makes Plague one that could fit nearly any occasion.