Susan James’ sixth album, Sea Glass, is a glorious swirl of folk melodies and heart-swelling harmonies. It was originally released in 2015. She describes it as post-modern folk-rock. It was arranged with the help of High Llamas multi-instrumentalist, Sean O’Hagan. His influence on the arrangements - informed by Brian Wilson - is clear to see. O’Hagan compares James to ‘60s artists Judy Henske and Nancy Priddy.
Vinyl LP £16.99 SSLP1017
Aquamarine coloured vinyl LP on Sunstone. Remastered for vinyl, includes a new bonus track.
- Coloured vinyl
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- Sea Glass by Susan James
Susan James had already released a few records of glorious folk rock before she decided that she needed some arrangement and compositional advice. She turned to the High llamas Sean O 'Hagan who I'd say is the absolute best person to turn to if you were wanting advice as to how to arrange your songs. His magic touch is all over the second track here Awful Lot which matches James lovely voice to the sort of sweeping strings you hear on the High Llamas and Stereolab albums he's been involved in.
But I'm not just here to blow smoke up O'Hagan's ass. The opening Poseidon's Daughter is a lovely piece of acoustic folk rock that doesn't need O' Hagan slathering glinting beauty all over it to make it special. James already has a fascinating way with harmonies that is first noticeable on the brilliant rounds that conclude the song. Vocals intertwining in and out of each other. It's that Surf's Up coda thing you know? Perfect
Yup the baroque harmonic structures of the Beach Boys are here in spades but it's only in addition to the folky brightness of James songs. On tracks like Calico Valley it's as if Van Dyke Parks has got hold of an early Joni Mitchell album and re-arranged it in his own idiosyncratic style. O'Hagan's arrangements make me giggle out of both admiration and recognition but the songs on Sea Glass stand up on their own particularly the gorgeous title track which is a mesmerising slice of reverb heavy Laurel Canyon acoustic glory.
It's true to say that Susan James has thought this record through. She's gone above and beyond in her efforts to find a way to create something that will stand alongside the great singer songwriters of the 60s and it looks as if she's succeeded.
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