The Connecticut River Valley folk rock quartet Tiny Ocean began around 2016 when drummer Jon Morse brought on guitarist Jeremy Coster and bassist Kieth Bass to help back up some songs that the singer/songwriter Kierstin Sieser had wanted to arrange and record. After gigging around their home state for a bit the band hit the studio to record what would become Sometimes You’re Right, their debut record as the band Tiny Ocean, which includes Keith Newman on bass guitar and backing vocals and Freddie Tane on pedal steel.
Sometimes You’re Right opens with the slow rolling country esthetics of “Astronaut” a deeply personal and affecting introduction to the record. It’s a rather melancholy opener yet Sieser’s vocals are sweet as can be, only don’t let that fool you. They have the feeling of a woman who has nearly lost her voice from the sadness she is recollecting, and we are meeting her here, as she now has enough focus to lament on what has been lost. This sweetness takes a bit of an uptick, as does the music on the next track “Apple Pie” on which she gets a little help from some male vocal harmonies. Despite its dire nature I couldn’t help but be made to feel good by the addictive cheerfulness the song exudes.
As I listened on I realized this period of cheerfulness despite the sadness of the materials undertones was kept me wanting more, perhaps I am myself a glutton for punishment or just that despite the pain in the lyrics there was so much beauty in the craftsmanship of the songs and Sieser’s vocal delivery which I at once liked because she is never begging for mercy nor is she begging for a listener’s sympathy. She is simply stating the brutal facts in a poetic mundanity that is at once elegiac and beautiful. It’s not something I hear very often, but when I do it is striking enough to make me stop and take notice. Take for instance a line from one of my favorite tracks “Americans” on which she sings, “morning sounds like this/morning feels like why I always love the night.” One can pour over that single phrase again and again, so simple, so beautiful and so powerful.
Later on another standout track, “Slow Learner” the pedal steel wails and the keys lend a dainty touch and the song emerges slowly with the feeling of a watercolor painting coming to life before one’s eyes. Here Sieser sings, “and you say, say, say, that you taught me / buts its more, more, more like a haunting.” Later on the beautifully haunting country ballad “Poison” reminiscent of the great Neko Case, Sieser sings, “darkness so thick, wraps us in its sweetness / electricity is buzzing like the crickets.” Here again we this sense of a mysteriousness that pervades so much of Tiny Ocean’s slowly wrought work.
The folk and alt country scene is an ever expanding universe unto itself, one which I often find to be bloated with so much wallowing and self-pity that it just makes for something like the conversations I overhear on the bus or train during the daily commute; heartbreak amplified and often very tedious and impersonal. However when heartbreak is done right, as it is so masterfully on Tiny Ocean’s Sometimes You're Right, it’s a conversation you just don’t want to end.
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