It’s hard to hear Pinkwood 2, the most recent release from local favorites Seekonk, without comparing it their masterful 2006 album, Pinkwood. Much of what made the first Pinkwood so thrilling is still in place: the gorgeous, hushed vocals, thoughtful instrumentation and expansive sonic space. The contrast between the softer-than-soft singing and achingly sharp arrangements is also a principle pleasure of this album. The main difference is one of tone. While Pinkwood felt like the onset of a foggy evening, its successor sounds like it’s had a bit more direct sun.
The guitars on Pinkwood 2 are brighter, the rhythms swing more and when it all works, the songs sound as good as anything Seekonk has recorded to date. “38. Special,” one of the highlights of the album, lilts along comfortably, in no particular hurry, with one echo-y guitar drifting off into the air — occasionally bubbling, occasionally backwards — and another plinking out tidy chords over brushed drums. Dave Noyes, known for his Swiss Army–style instrumental work, gets the chance to have his vocals take the front seat on this appealing, ambling track.
The sunny tone doesn’t serve the album quite as well on “Breakfast at Noon.” This song rubs up against one of my listening prejudices: I have a very hard time with the sound of pedal steel guitar. It always strikes me as schmaltzy, and this track is swimming in it. Those with a more egalitarian ear will probably enjoy this song — it has one of the album’s best slow builds. And the very end of “Breakfast at Noon” has my single favorite moment of the album. As the other instruments fade away, a small cloud of synth tones swirl around for a second or two, electronically cleansing the palate. It’s a quick little moment, but entirely gorgeous and, in its way, evocative of what I love most about Seekonk.
Another exemplary track is “For a Reason.” It uses a wider vocabulary of sounds than most of the other songs. Jason Ingalls’ drums are crisp under Sarah Ramey’s exemplary voice. Tuned percussion (maybe a xylophone?) comes and goes throughout the song, providing melodic reference points when the rest of the instruments are allowed to wash and expand.
On the whole, Pinkwood 2 is something of a grower. Though not as immediately appealing as its predecessor, there’s a lot to grab onto here, and each successive listen brings out new elements. Folks who are inclined to spend serious time with their albums — the fancy headphone set — will no doubt reap the greatest reward, but those who only play music when friends come over for dinner will also find a lot to like.
At present, Pinkwood 2 is only available in a limited run of 100 LPs, so don’t put it on your “save for later” list.
— Galen Richmond