Some By Sea – The Saddest Christmas

Some By Sea
The Saddest Christmas

When Some By Sea surprised me with the excellent full-length Get Off the Ground if You’re Scared, I was reluctantly forced to namecheck Death Cab for Cutie. The former band’s brand of light indie-pop that relies on clever lyrics was a similar approach to the more well-known Death Cab, but, perhaps more prominently, Some By Sea frontman Chris Du Bray’s voice bears strong similarity to Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard.

With The Saddest Christmas, a delicately put-together EP acting as a prelude to the band’s new album, On Fire! (Igloo), due out on SideCho Records early in 2006, the band dispels Death Cab references for good. This is a band with its own sound, and that sound has never been better.

Du Bray’s emotional and heartfelt lyrics are even stronger than on the band’s debut, and the instrumentation backing him up sounds impeccably precise and crisp. You get the delicate indie-pop guitars, slick and upbeat rhythms, and wonderful strings. Rachel Bowman’s backing vocals provide a nice counterpart to Du Bray at times. And the songwriting, as a whole, is decidedly stronger than most of the band’s indie-pop contemporaries.

All that being said, it’s important to point out that this is an EP, and it’s a hold-over. So the Christmas bells that ring through a little too much of the opening title track can be forgiven as a nod to the title and not a recurring theme. The production of some of the album’s most intense moments tends to result in a little buzz that may or may not be intentional. And the presence of “(These) Actresses & Actors, Soon They Will All Die,” which is a live recording, with a slightly altered title, of a track from the band’s first full-length, demonstrates shows the band’s talent as a touring band as well.

The other songs here are stronger than should even be expected on an EP. “Never Climb a Mountain Backwards” is an upbeat pop song with a killer rock beat and some slick guitarwork. But the band really shines on its moodier songs, like “You Can’t Come Back From This,” which has haunting strings and amazing vocals from Du Bray. “Well you, you crossed an ugly desert, filled with troubles built up in your mind,” he sings, and the words resonate wonderfully. On “A Book and No Disasters,” Bowman adds a nice flare of backing vocals, and the mid-tempo track has a quiet and sincere quality to it. The closing “Engraved Invitation” shows a nice, twangy, almost country-like feel to the band’s songwriting.

Each copy of this CD was put together by the band by hand, just like the debut was, and I hope the care and love that went into these releases doesn’t suffer when the band gets its much-deserved widespread release on SideCho. Even if the look and feel of the album is diminished, though, it’s clear the band will put all that effort into making a full-length that will likely be one of the best of 2006. Expect this year to be a stellar one for Some By Sea.