After releasing three albums firmly planted in the pop-punk genre Seaway were ready to try something new with their sound. Their fourth album, Big Vibe, takes a stab at 80’s style pop rock filled with big sing along choruses and crowd pleasing hooks. Released under their longtime label in Pure Noise Records, the record’s timing in the fall season seems a little curious, as the sound that comes through the speakers is fully entrenched with summer vibes. The benefit of releasing shimmering music during the rain-soaked season of autumn is to have some new tunes to brighten up our outlook on life and what comes next. Seaway have created their best record to date on Big Vibe, and the band seems poised to take the next big step in their quest for world domination.
The record kicks off with the guitar and bass-driven “Brain in a Jar” and feels like something Motion City Soundtrack or The Ataris would write if they were aiming for a summery opener to an album. Lead vocalist Ryan Locke is as charming and confident as he’s ever been as he sways over the picturesque musical landscapes created by his bandmates. In the second verse he describes his current mood as he sings, “Let’s smoke all that’s left in the ashtray / Cause we’re stuck in Whiskey Bay / And there’s nowhere else to go / We’ll just float here / Sometimes I try to lose my mind.” The way Locke describes his overall outlook on his life and headspace only improves as the album unfolds.
The title track is another big pop-rock anthem that reminds me of the carefree days of driving to the beach looking for some rest and relaxation. The great chorus of, “That it’s a big vibe rushing over from your side of the room / I’m all tongue tied can’t seem to handle your big vibe rushing up my spine / Wide-eyed, radiating, I’m tongue tied, can’t seem to handle your,” is perfectly crafted and showcases the growth and maturity of the band as songwriters.
My current favorite song on the record, “Still Blue” is built around a great riff from lead guitarist Andrew Eichinger that bleeds away to another big chorus. The way the band is able to rally around their vocalist and sneak in back-up vocals and harmonies only speaks to the power of the sound that they created on this album. From the “whoa-ohs” to the layered vocals in the chorus, Seaway really thought out the direction they wanted to take on this LP and had the musical chops to make it all happen.
”Wild Things” is a slower track than the breakneck pace of the earlier songs in the set, but it only helps to complement the fully fleshed out tones brought forth on the record. Locke sings while reminiscing about the past, “The sun was shining on your shoulders, I felt alive / Next thing I knew we were both choking on water / Your face in my lap and we both laughed along, felt so wrong / Never again, never again.” Locke described the writing process in a prior interview for this song by saying, “Going into writing ‘Wild Things,’ we knew that this song would lean more heavily on the indie-pop influences. It came together a bit later in the process. I think with a song like this it had to breathe a bit so we could figure out where it was going to go.” The way Locke is able to describe a moment in time makes for a memorable listening experience that brings the audience into his world.
The pace picks up again on songs like “Pathetic” and “Sweet Sugar,” with the latter track feeling like something Fountains of Wayne would’ve written for their now-legendary Welcome Interstate Managers album. Seaway pay homage to artists such as this with a sincerity and authenticity rarely seen in this genre.
Another late album standout is the mid-tempo “If You Let Me” where Locke describes a relationship he feels incredibly passionate about. He sings, “We sleep in your bed but it’s broken / Held up by the books we don’t open / You don’t realize how you saved me / Could kick it together till 80 / Don’t get any rest cause we’re always stuck / With all of the things that we never bring up / I’m feeling prophetic about you / Cause I’d be pathetic without you.” Locke’s improved lyrics on this album only reward the listener on repeat spins.
The album closer, “Sick Puppy” finds Locke describing a relationship with a close friend of his, and he outlines his unique connection to this person through several clever lyrical lines. The great hook on the chorus, “Cause I’m a sick puppy and I need some love / I’ve been struggling, I’ve been drowning in the tub / Faces come and go but I don’t mind / I’m a sick puppy and I love it,” shows the playful way of using self-deprecating humor to face this crazy thing called life.
I came away from listening to Big Vibe with a full slate of emotions, and all of them made me feel better about my outlook on life. This record connected with me in ways I didn’t originally anticipate, and I feel that others will get a ton of replay value out of this album when you’re in need of a “pick me up.” The infectious nature of the well-crafted hooks only speaks to the improved songwriting and musicianship that Seaway have honed in on here. Sometimes you’ll hear a record for the first time and just know that everyone will get the same smile on their face when they realize that they have found a band that is creating their best music at a time when we need it most.