By: Greg Gargiulo
If for Kylee Swenson's comforting voice alone, Loquat's Secrets of the Sea (released October 14 on Talking House Records) warrants a listen or two. Nailing high notes with ease, no hint of even the slightest strain evident, and delivering mid-rangers with a sustaining expressionistic flair, Swenson's natural, passion-filled vocals carry an otherwise fairly decent release. For the San Francisco-based quintet, named after a tangy fruit indigenous to China, the music seems to take a backseat to the dominant words, both in composition and actual volume. With most tracks generally similar in structure, the musical side of Secrets lacks in the oomph department and fails to travel outside its basic hemisphere of toned-down sound, leaving the listener hanging when major transitions appear imminent.
There are a few exceptions. "Sit Sideways," with a mild synth-and-bass backbone, packs a commendable punch, trailing off and returning stronger with each subsequent verse, making it ascend rather than simply move forward. Understandably, Loquat is soft rock not prog rock, and they're not required to break down each song into movements or chapters. Nonetheless, some heartfelt progression undoubtedly contributes to their listening value. "Clearly Now…" and "In My Sleep," on the other hand, both provoke reminders of mid-era Fleetwood Mac in spots. "Clearly" does so with its opening guitar riff ringing of Lindsey Buckingham's "Big Love" as well as its more detectable and powerful percussion, and "Sleep," through Swenson's mesmerizing outpourings, approaches Stevie Nicks at certain points, though its not entirely of the same color.
Secrets can go over well for a relaxing, personal wind-down session or for some casual listening for the sake of admiring Swenson's vocals and enjoying a few instances of audible fulfillment, but don't expect its grasp to extend too much further than that.
You can check out the video for leadoff track "Harder Hit" over here.
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