On his debut album Leaves in the River, Sea Wolf was more a cub than a wolf. Generally, his music is soft and calming. When I first heard Sea Wolf it was the end of winter in Minnesota. The weather was still and cold, with gloomy clouds presiding over most mornings. His music fit the scenery, warmly filling the emptiness of the Minneapolis streets. It was therefore strange, almost a year later, listening to his album again, now in the lively urban streets of San Francisco. The music and place felt so different, so unfamiliar all of a sudden.
Sea Wolf is Alex Brown Church’s solo venture, formerly a member of Irving. With his first album, Church’s dark and folksy sound was compared to the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie. On his second album, White Water, White Bloom, Church remains self-reflective singing about love and time over string instrumentation, but has responded to critics with a fuller and more layered sound, suggesting his wolf canines.
On this Friday night, Sea Wolf took the stage for a full crowd at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco. Bimbo’s was an excellent choice for the show with its dimly lit walls, velvet curtains, and ample seating. The old venue has a type of serenity with its preservation that coupled well with Sea Wolf’s sagely songwriting. He focused on songs from Leaves in the River with tracks like “Middle Distance Runner,” “You’re A Wolf,” and “Black Dirt,” while giving tastes of his new album with “O Maria,” “Turn the Dirt Over,” and “White Water, White Bloom.”
Initially, I worried Sea Wolf’s music would be too calm for a live show, but was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the five piece backing band. With Church playing the guitar, the band’s other instruments consisted of the Korg organ, drums, cello, and bass. The group walked onto the stage, as fog billowed across their path illuminated by overhead blue lights—oh the drama! Brown’s voice was clear and his hit’s like “You’re A Wolf,” sounded almost better than on the album. One of his new songs, “O Maria,” with its hammering guitar progression, and aching hook, struck me as Brown’s answer to critics, pushing himself outside his comfort. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a single from the album. My only complaint from the night, where was the song, “The Cold, The Dark, The Silent,”— please the fans Sea Wolf, or maybe just me, because we can also bite!
Sea Wolf:“O Maria”