“And back in my hometown / I remember girls whose bodies I adored / I knew their names just like they knew my revolving door / But they are strangers now” – The Plague.
A few years ago, I was driving from Tepotzotlán back to my home with two friends. The sun was setting and it was a very cold November. The coldest I’ve felt in ages. The stereo had Rilo Kiley’s The execution of all things and a friend I quite liked was falling asleep in her seat, the Sun painting her sleepy face in golden hues.
I didn’t want to drive too fast, I wanted to enjoy the moment. But I had to keep the eyes on the road. I rarely think about that afternoon without ‘The good that won’t come out’ automatically playing in my head and although nothing happened between us, I still hold her dear.
Somewhere between reality and the “what if” in my head, The Eastern Sea created an album called Plague. The opening track could easily replace any Rilo Kiley song I remembered, enhancing the memory of driving in that chilly Sunday afternoon, with a few trucks and cars with Christmas trees tied up overtaking me. The sparse instrumentation leaves the forlorn voice of Matthew Hines alone, like a busted up car struggling in a Mexican highway, still thriving to move forward. It will reach its destination.
What if I had stopped and kissed her? ‘Wasn’t for love’, you could say. A playful moment, equally baroque and brutally honest, a track using the delicious elements of Baroque Pop to convey a sentimental message. The sounds of The Eastern Sea are brutally honest but delicate, like a tender haymaker. ‘So long either way’ is superdreamy, with that vibrant arpeggiated guitar that is violent interrupted by the rest of the instrumentation. I do believe that ‘Santa Rosa’ and ‘America’ are the one and the same. Sure, they are two songs, but the emotions that ‘Santa Rosa’ left dangling like a piñata are deftly caught by ‘America’, swirled around and thrown into the air. They never come back to earth, soaring into the blue skies.
I met the proggy pop sounds of The Eastern Sea thanks to two sources: a PR legend named Sheila Kenny (who always gives great recommendations) and a Daytrotter subscription. Curiously enough, it was the same track: ‘The Match’. It made me think of Decibully (one of my all time fave bands) and the more I listened to it, the similarities dispelled but the attachment remained. ‘The Match’ is easily the track to play to the newcomer. Don’t worry, they’ll stick around for more.
If ‘The Match’ is the little worm dangling from a hook, then ‘China Untitled One’ is the net that should catch the non-believer. A wonderful track that grows, swirls and breaks the mould, it solidifies the band as a tour de force. ‘Central Cemetary’ and ‘There you are’ will cement their rep. Plague goes out with a bang, a 50 calibre explosive round of emotional purity called ‘The line’, which mixes a bit of alt country with the ever so delightful chamber pop that has peppered this album.
If I’d ever given this girl a mixtape and if The Eastern Sea had exited back then, I’d definitely have included ‘The Match’ with tracks by Headlights, Decibully and American Analog Set. Plague is the stuff of dreams.