Album review: Seafoam Green – Topanga Mansion

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Seafoam Green is a collaboration between Dublin’s Dave O’Grady and Rich Robinson that sprang from a chance meeting in a Nashville recording studio. The Irish influence takes precedence in Topanga Mansion’s opening track, Celtic Wanderings. It begins with an easy listening vibe but soon layers up with keys, cymbals and strings. The mellow vocal over the top keeps it on the soothing side of dissonance.

Home begins as a more traditionally Americana song with a lonesome pedal steel guitar and a distinctive voice. However, discordant drums crash in at the chorus, along with gentle harmonies and 8-bit instrumentation.

Down The River is quite the change of pace; an up-beat Southern rock number with  gospel influences. It’s less experimental than previous tracks but it’s warmer, and it’s the one you’d want to hear live. There’s still innovation, though – there’s a free jazz solo at the end.

By Sister, the signs are plain; a gentle intro to a track that’s almost ten minutes long is obviously going to hide considerable musical flourishes. It’s another track that nods to the live scene, sounding like a Creedence Clearwater Revival style strummer tailor-made for the sundown set at a festival.

Until now, the lyrics have taken something of a backseat to the musicality. Not so with Runaway. The shredding electric guitar is cut with the shredding lyric: “I was born to a fatherless son.” It gets more cutting still: “I’m better because you left me/I don’t want to know your name.” This spiky, charged track is an album highlight.

Lowly Lou is classic Southern rock. It could have come straight from the Seventies canon, complete with an  iconic muddy guitar solo. Nod to the searing, modern put-down, though: “no memory palaces behind those vacant eyes.”

Royal Call slows the pace down but keep the driving beat. The vocals are key here, especially the close female harmony in the choruses. Petty Tyrants and Far From Golden take the same shape, but with raindrop piano parts and reaching vocals there is a heightened sense of hope. The latter song has an epic reverberating guitar solo which ties up nicely with Topanga Mansion’s classic rock songs.

The final song ties up the threads of the entire album. No Wasted World echoes the earlier experimentation. Some of the instrumentation has as much of a sense of sound effects as of melody. The vocals, drums and guitar bring the Southern rock, and the plucky piano colours the edges and lifts the mood.

Seafoam Green’s Topanga Mansion is out now through Mellowtone Records on CD, digital and double gatefold vinyl. If you’re up North, don’t miss a special performance at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on December 2, 2017, to celebrate The Band’s final concert in 1976. 

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