The EP “So is the Sea” by 1977 is a breath of fresh air in some respects, but also may serve to remind some of sultry summer winds from long ago. Julie Kendall, who takes on the name 1977 as her musical ‘numerals de plume,’ does a masterful job with this five song EP. The musicianship is tight and the sound mix is rock solid. And one of the best things you can say about this release is that it sounds markedly different from just about every other thing being released these days. All of which is not to say that, if you have a long enough memory, it won’t remind you of musical times gone by.
“So is the Sea” could operate as a great summer disk, especially if it were fleshed out into a full album-length release. As it is, the five songs here work to provide a sketch of what Julie Kendall has to offer. And what she has to offer seems to be greater parts confection than full course meal. That’s not a slight. Not in the least. In context, it works very well as ear candy. It’s a buoyant, poppy EP and that’s just great. However, with just about any EP, you never get a real sense when it comes to the artist’s full range. On the other hand, it certainly can whet your appetite for more.
The first song and title track of the EP, “So is the Sea,” features some bright, layered vocals and nifty guitar work. It’s an uplifting, sing-songy number that put me in mind of Jane Siberry’s “Mimi on the Beach” in terms of feel but not necessarily sound. Instrumentally, this song hangs together well with the keyboards, drums and guitar all blending nicely to create the sensation of spending a care-free day at the beach at the height of summer. Kendall’s vocals are light and airy, and help carry you away on that magical, musical summer breeze.
“You Got A Way” harkens back to a simpler time, and reminds me of some of the pop gems the Go-Go’s filled the airwaves with a few decades back. There are some nice hooks on this tune, which is driven by keyboards and complemented with tasty fretwork and drums. The bass holds the driving beat together well. Kendall sings “you got a way to my soul” and we believe it as much as we believed a post-Go Go’s Belinda Carlisle when she confessed she was “mad about you” all those years ago. This song is one that definitely will make you hit the repeat button.
If the whole day-at-the-beach mythical scenario needed any further solidification, it comes at us in waves in the next tune. The title of the track is “Alright,” and it’s certainly alright by me. The guitar sound is definitely reminiscent of surf music, certainly owing to Dick Dale, or even Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet to move the analogy from the California beaches to the Toronto streets. But, as SMOASP will tell you, they were not a f#@$ing surf band. There is worthy instrumentation on this track as well, with the keyboards ably supplemented with bass, drums and a guitar sound that might make The Ventures proud. There’s even a taste of Beach Boys-style ‘pet sounds’ thrown in for good measure. “Alright” is my favourite song on this EP.
“Sunshine” is a bit meatier a tune, and features a delicious bass riff. It follows the beach music milieu – but not too closely – and is somewhat along the lines of the B-52’s ‘Roam’ meets The Castaways ‘Liar, Liar’ in terms of sound. The layered vocals soothe the listener and smooth the edges of the driving instrumentals. I like this song; I just feel it’s a bit short. I liked how it was building and then suddenly it’s over. Kind of like a Canadian summer, I guess.
The last song on the EP is titled “I’m Okay (There Will Come A Day)” and it will pull you in to its carousel ride. It’s a semi-hypnotic number, again showing off the keyboards and offering a wonderful bouncing, at times descending bass line. The song has a circus-like calliope music feel to it, and you would do well to fall into its trance. To me, it resembles a Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles number, somewhere in the hazy zone between Strawberry Fields and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Julie Kendall has done a great job with this tune and with the EP in general.
I can’t wait to hear what her next full length album, which is reportedly to be titled “Seaforth” sounds like. Part of my curiosity comes from having been to Seaforth and knowing people who come from there. Apparently that album will come out sometime next year. In the meantime, the release date for this digital EP, “So is the Sea,” is set for November 15th. It’s worth checking out in my opinion, and I am confident at least parts of it – if not the entire offering – will stick in your head. And it may provide a mental soundtrack for that next set of sunny summer days where you find yourself lying on a beach somewhere.
Top Tracks: “Alright;” “You Got A Way”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)