Album Review: Erisy Watt – ‘Eyes Like The Ocean’

Posted: by The Editor

Erisy Watt’s new record Eyes Like The Ocean starts with a slick acoustic riff that leads into a steady fingerpicked pattern joined by Watt’s airy, but strong vocals. The song (“New Same”) has a welcoming and warm feel that also lets you know musically what you’re in for, as Watt delivers a record of classic style folk tunes accompanied by a backing band with piano and pedal steel at times, and sparse percussion and atmospheric strings at others. The album was recorded live to tape, and it shows in all the best ways possible. Listening to the record, you feel as if you’re in a small bar watching the band live, and you can hear Watt’s fingers slide and shift up and down the neck of the acoustic guitar at various points on the record. It also doesn’t hurt that Watt’s guitar playing sounds as great as her singing, and the musicians she’s found to back her add tasteful classic folk flourishes to her breezy melodies.

The second track, “Big Sky” introduces more of the band with some lovely piano and electric guitar on top of the driving acoustic rhythm and a huge chorus that’s ready-made for airtime on NPR. “Nowhere Fast” and “Moon” join “Big Sky” as the more uptempo tunes with the largest band behind Watt, and “Nowhere Fast” might be the catchiest track on the album. The chorus puts a dancey melody under the lyrics “waking up like it’s a chore / and can you even tell me / what you came here for / I’m anxious, and I’m bored / you indulge, then ignore / I see, I judge / you rage and react / chasing after nothing / getting nowhere fast,” making it one of the strongest on the record, and one that’s sure to get stuck in your head for days. Coming near the end of the album, “Moon” is one of the livelier tracks, driven by the percussion and Watt’s sardonic lyrics like “you’re saying ain’t she cute / ain’t she a piece of work / here let me help you with that / wouldn’t want you to get hurt / you’re saying quiet down honey / I know best / keep on doing what you’re doing / and I’ll take the rest.” 

The mid-tempo tunes “Little Time” and “Rinse and Retreat” work as more contemplative moments on the album, built on the strength of Watt’s varied fingerpicking patterns and lyrics that let ideas bleed and run into each other like different hues of a sunset. “Now the petals and the pollen / make a blanket on the car / and I’m sitting searching for a subject / within the same four walls  / as the seconds spill out and days dissolve” stands out on “Rinse and Retreat,” a track that adds layers slowly, growing into a swelling final line of “but are you dragging your feet / on the shoulder / when the car breaks down / but maybe you weren’t meant to / get there anyhow.”

While the album is great top-to-bottom, it’s the quieter, sparser moments that really stand out on Eyes Like The Ocean. With just Watt on acoustic and vocals, and some gorgeous strings, “Blue” is particularly stunning. The lyrics evoke clear images and emotions of everyday life with lines like “so you brew the coffee way too strong / you’re confident you wrote a song / you made a list, you’re moving on” and “then time and space and gravity / and Monday mornings intervene / how rude to wake you in a dream,” and the refrain bathed in strings is one of the more captivating on the album. Equally stunning is album closer “Annapurna,” with a lap steel taking the place of strings as the lone accompaniment to Watt’s guitar and vocals. The fingerpicking is a little more complex on the track, and the chorus of “throw me out of orbit baby / cut the line / I’ve been spinning in circles honey / tethered to the time / throw me out of orbit babe / past the months / and moons, and milky way / maybe you’ll meet me there / one of these days” serves as a wonderful and appropriate capper to the rest of the album.

There’s always a bit of a danger with musicians consciously working in traditional musical forms like folk. It touches on the difference between imitating traditional forms and ideas without much to add compared to an artist making their own original music within the traditional forms, using those classic sounds and ideas to make something new and inherently more interesting than modern folk that wears traditional aesthetics like a costume. Thankfully, Erisy Watt is one of the songwriters that takes the instrumentation and recording style of the past and uses them to express the feelings of anxiety and malaise that can come from modern life, breathing new life into them and making something that feels immediate and of-the-time with Eyes Like The Ocean.

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal

Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject

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