The chances that an album entitled Alone would be melancholy are pretty high in my opinion. I wasn’t expecting a party album when I listened to Alone by Coastline. The eleven songs on this album are indeed predominantly melancholy but the two members R. A. Scott and T. Bloom do throw in a couple of unexpected deviations.
There isn’t too much happening on Alone. The songs revolve around an acoustic guitar and both Scott’s and Bloom’s vocals. They get some things right and other things wrong but I would argue that they have more victories. The band sounds best when they really go for the heartfelt, genuine melancholy. On some songs they try to be cute, ironic and slightly funny and it doesn't pan out as well. It actually feels out of place. Imagine if a reverent album like Bridge Over Troubled Water had some comic relief. It would take away from the experience.
The recording quality is about that of a demo but it helps that there isn't much instrumentation. You can hear the lyrics pretty well on each song. Their voices are sometimes blended better than other times. On that note I will say they sound better in unison than they do individually.
They start the album strong with “Lesson One: Forgiveness” which bears resemblance to the artist Bon Iver. The song features simple yet effective guitar pickings and some of their best vocal melodies. The lyrics are written well enough that they avoid tropes but cover familiar topics. They sing, “Cocoa, burning a paper cup, trading a kiss for luck, there's froth on your lip. Windows, frosted right through the glass, autumn was bound to pass, I'm losing my grip.”
The next song “Bear” is an example of the dichotomy that is present on the rest of the album. It’s not badly written but feels almost silly compared to the first song. “Trapeze” and “The Bird & The Whale” demonstrates the duo's strengths. “The Bird & The Whale” story is almost exactly the same as the Tom Wait song “Fish and Bird.” In fact both songs mention mirrors, sailors and drying eyes. I think this is a tribute to that song. Other songs like “The Wendy Bird” and the gypsy-inspired “The Lobby Boy” weren’t as well delivered and just seemed out of place.
Coastline will want to hone in on their strengths, which happens to revolve around melancholy and their vocal harmonies. The one offs they were attempting actually took away from the value of the more inspired tracks. Despite the mishaps when they get it right, they get it right. That’s enough of a reason to give this a spin.
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