Over the past two decades, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Anthony Newes has crafted a wide-ranging musical career. He’s worked across folk, punk, pop, melodic rock, indie and rap genres, all supported by his background studies in improvisation and audio engineering. He took advantage of the recent pandemic-related pause in his performance schedule to create In the Dark of the Sea, a five-song EP that draws from all of his broad experience.
Newes sets the mood straight away with the EP’s beautiful cover art: the semi-abstract seascape will make you want to don your bathing suit and dive in. And once you dive into the music, you’ll be glad you did. Just like a good ocean reef, you can appreciate this album’s life at various depths. You can bathe near the surface and enjoy the sunshine and warm water of the pop-tinged vocal harmonies and melodies. You can poke your head under and enjoy the vibrant colors of Ryan Young’s delicate string interludes and Jeremy Ilvisaker’s guitar licks as they swim past. If you like, grab a lungful of air and go deeper to appreciate the tight grooves and layered percussion work of bassist Chris Beirden and drummer Ryan Mach. Or, strap on the scuba tanks and contemplate some of the darker corners deep below–in this case, Newes’ lyrics, which belie a little bit of loneliness, melancholy and dimmed dreams.
The title track “In the Dark of the Sea,” which opens the record, is a beautiful dreamy pop track that washes over your ears. It’s a simple song elevated by wonderful production–imagine strains of Paul Simon’s world percussion meeting Howard Jones’ vocal layers and Ron Wood’s ersatz country licks, all finished with a wonderful mid-‘80s pop sheen. Mach’s drums propel the song with a just-right touch–he is firm without being overbearing. Repeated listens reveal new parts, tones and layers, like life observed on an ever-changing reef.
Each of the next four tracks offers similar complexity and interest. “What if the Stars Miss Me as Much as I Miss You?” is almost a lullaby, with its underwater feel, a bit of piano, lots of fun guitar parts and neat clarinet bits too. The sea shanty “Take It From You Now You Take It From Me” features sweet string parts and great percussion against Newes’ contemplative lyric: “Where do we go when the sound dissipates / Laughter is lost and the heart starts to break / The moon slips away as the silence survives.”
The vocal harmonies really shine on the slower “Everywhere Here Is In Your Mind,” which offers a lot of wonderful space for those vocals to breathe. The brushed percussion is nicely mixed here, with little accents showing up on different sides of the sound image. Once again the strings are lovely.
The EP closes with the wistful acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals of “Crying Time,” which is reminiscent of a ‘60s girl-group single. Here it serves as a farewell song as you leave the magical paradise of In the Dark of the Sea. Like a good island vacation, we’re left wanting more. I plan to return again with another spin.
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