Seafret’s new album was a confusing one for me. At different points, it pulled me in with a strong introduction or a belting chorus, but the tracks always seemed to me to be one step away from great. All things considered, I’d say that this album is relatively nice, but too safe to be anything more than that, or to pander to my personal taste. The record itself straddles the blurred lines between nu-folk, acoustic and pop, and sometimes does so very well. More often than not, however, the combination of simple lyrics and slightly formulaic guitar work means it falls on the side of bland.
Unfortunately for the two-piece - who are said to have big things ahead of them- the type of music they’re making fits into an already saturated market, meaning they need to work even harder to make it as a great band. In fact, there were lots of artists I easily compared them to on the first listen: I hear Kodaline, Bastille, The Kooks, Mumford & Sons, James Bay, and Ben Howard, and that’s not an exhaustive list. This may be their downfall; they’re doing what’s been done before, and not better than the originals. Lead singer Jack Sedman’s (the poor man’s name is even a variation on Bombay Bicycle Club’s Jack Steadman) voice is like a mix between Steve Garrigan of Kodaline and Dan of Bastille, but with a subtle break or grit that saves it from the insult of being too similar to the latter’s. Every song I didn’t actively dislike, such as Skipping Stones, reminded me of another track (in this case, the introduction is quite similar to Ben Howard’s Esmerelda). The only collaboration on the record To The Sea, which features Rosie Carney, sounds remarkably like a Mumford & Sons song, if you did whatever the equivalent to squinting your eyes is to your ears.
I’m not saying that this album is necessarily bad. Some songs are quite sweet if you’re in the mood for it, and a couple of choruses had my head bopping. You can also tell that a lot has gone into this; the songs are layered with instruments subtly and effectively, or a track is left sparse when the lyrics demand it. Sometimes, however, Seafret rely on old clichés, such as in the predictable Wildfire, which is unconvincing. I do, however, think that the band avoids a classic trap of only making good slow songs or upbeat tracks, and not both. On the one hand, I thought they did better on the more stripped back tracks such as Give Me Something or Oceans, which has some very pretty harmonies while staying relatively simple in the guitar strumming. Conversely, the thicker, heavier tracks such as Skimming Stones (which is like if James Bay sang a Catfish and the Bottlemen song) and There’s A Light are a couple of the strongest songs on the album. The latter especially seems to push the boundaries of acoustic-pop created by the rest of the tracklist, but sits uncomfortably in the very folky tracks that surround it.
This review may seem a bit tepid, but that fits with its subject. I don’t think this is the worst acoustic-pop music I’ve listened to, but it is nowhere near the best. Alas, this is its undoing, as for the majority of the time I spent listening to it, I got a strong urge to listen to Kodaline instead. If you’re going to do something that’s been done so many times by some really talented artists, you need to do it better than them. In my opinion, Tell Me It’s Real does not. All in all, I think Seafret have a lot of potential, but just aren’t there yet with this record.