Sam and the Sea - Evil Ghosts (EP Review)

There's a haunting quality to the music of New York-based artist Sam and the Sea. On their debut EP, "Evil Ghosts," they deliver seemingly gentle songs, but there is more happening under the initial surface of experimental folk and shoegazing indie, a type of heavy metal in disguise, like a ghost taking the form of something else. Thankfully, Sam and the Sea is a sincere artist, something evident in the experimentalism of their songs and intimately-delivered vocals.  

The title track, "Evil Ghosts", is an aptly-titled hauntology recalling the early '00s lo-fi folktronica artists like Iron & Wine, who purposefully gave their alt-folk recordings tape hiss and a live feel. This come-hither opening song creates a seductive mood, warm and gentle but with an air of mischief in the inventive melody. "Canada" is the spalpeen member of the collection, with its gritty distortion vitiating the dreamy psych-folk song underneath. While the busy multi-tracking here can distract from focused engagement with otherwise straightforward music, it's suitable in a piece about escaping, even if it is just to Canada for a weekend. 

The largely instrumental "Horses" gallops along with the ruminative splendour of electronic rock; sinisterly simple and industrial percussion, repeating guitar lines played with an infectious haze, and queazy synths add impressionistic strokes before vocals come in the second half, eschewing traditional song structure for a more far-reaching and wild excursion. On the closing track, " Waves", aquatic guitar tones bend around low vocals that surf on a bed on soft drum machines sprinkled with playful programming; a truly hypnotic track with the kernel of beauty being the lush synthesizers and gentle playing and singing styles.

 "Evil Ghosts" is stoned music. That's not to mean that it sounds lazy or unfocused or that its sole purpose is to service a round-circle smoke sesh. Instead, it's sedately composed and creatively performed, bringing the listener to an introspectively mellow state. There's enough vibrancy given to accessible elements to make sure they never get dull, and the more exploratory, music-for-the-sake-of-music passages are full of charm.