Half Seas Over – Half Seas Over review

Brooklynites Half Seas Over really impress with this self-titled debut on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint. Comprised of singer Adam McBride-Smith and pianist Elen Mehler, this release follows on from Mehler’s The After Suite album from last year, which saw the pair join forces on a couple of tracks.

While The After Suite was rooted in jazz, this new fully-fledged collaboration has liberated the pair to create something that will appeal to a great swathe of music fans. Unashamedly mellow and melancholy, the instrumentation is sparse but played to a truly captivating standard. Mehler’s piano must take the lion’s share of credit – check out his staccato, nerve-jangling playing on “Rake” for one example. But there are also drums and the occasional accordion (which nicely evokes the genesis of their name – a slang term for drunken sailors). The virtuoso double-bass on opener “Get Me To The Station” especially will have your jaw slowly dropping in admiration of the dexterous playing.

While most of the songs are slow and sentimental, a couple of jolly and upbeat songs make the cut. “Sunday’s Empire” has a rollicking bar-room vibe, while “Sad Mona” has a pleasing bossa nova lilt to it. They give the album a wider range as McBride-Smith’s smooth, Chet Baker-style voice cooing and emoting nicely throughout the album. Combining jazz, folk and blues so effortlessly, this album manages to touch on a lot that has come before – Tom Waits, Talk Talk and Jamie Cullum to name but a few – but manages to set itself apart nicely from the rest.

Review: Oliver Keens