Plumbiferous Media

Alibi Coast – Sebastian Blanck

Jul 22nd 2010
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Alibi Coast - Sebastian BlanckSebastian Blanck
Alibi Coast
Score: 54

After playing with NYC group Black Dice, artist and musician Sebastian Blanck began recording on his own, and Tuesday’s Alibi Coast is his first solo album. With Alibi Coast, Blanck combines instrumental experience from Black Dice along with contributions from several vocalists to create an interesting, though not entirely unique, album. But uniqueness aside, when Alibi Coast works well, it’s certainly a pleasure to listen to. The problem, then, is that the same idea can only be a pleasure for so long.

As far as musicianship goes, the instrumentals of Alibi Coast have quite a bit of technical prowess. Everything is excellent from a purely scientific standpoint, creating an overly solid, utterly relaxed sound that is actually somewhat overwhelming. The slightly more pronounced bass of “Empire of the Free” is an excellent addition to the track, adding perfectly to the tone of the song. The guitar flirts expertly with near-unison on “Black Sanded Beach,” proceeding into a fitting solo, and, though in an utterly subtle manner, is the defining voice of “Tumbling Skies,” serving to clearly define it as a track entirely unlike the previous and subsequent tracks, as well as, arguably, the best track on Alibi Coast.

But looking into “Tumbling Skies”‘s success more carefully, it’s probably not exactly amazing for Alibi Coast that one of the best tracks is unlike any of the others. For the most part, as fitting and well crafted as the sounds of Alibi Coast may be, they’re so drowned in their relaxing sound that they often sound lacking any sort of passion. There’s a difference between creating a relaxed album and one almost entirely devoid of energy. It does get better as it progresses, to a degree, but it’s a bad sign that the second track, “Nothing Left to Lose,” can have an upbeat tempo and active drum line and still sound completely tiring and dull.

Blanck is joined by a number of vocalists through Alibi Coast, allowing him to make his own vocal mark on the album while creating generally quite well-crafted harmonies between his voice and those of his fellow singers. Blanck himself is possessed of a particularily gentle voice, which seems to effortlessly swim through the music of Alibi Coast. While this certainly helps to develop the relaxed sound of the music, it does, at times, stray towards sounding somewhat irritating, and it occasionally seems lacking in variety. Of course, that is where the other vocalists come in. Caroline Polachek (of pop group Chairlift) is probably the best of Blanck’s contributors, especially on “Answers,” where her more forceful voice complements Blanck’s quite well. Unfortunately, at their worst, the guest vocalists can sound more superfluous than anything else.

Lyrically, Alibi Coast fits its musical mode quite well, however, it doesn’t do much more than fit, as repetition and frankly mediocre lyrics don’t do much to improve the album. As a general rule, the lyrics seem to be there more to extend the sound than anything else, as lines like “I remember being with you and watching our memories fade / And I’ll never remember / Why I shouldn’t have stayed” epitomize “generic.” Repetition is common, but, as it tends to occur on the best lines rather than, as is so often the case, the worst, it’s not nearly as detrimental as it could be.

Alibi Coast as a whole oscillates between being nothing more than soporific and being truly engaging and thought-provoking. The worst offenders, the first few tracks, give way to much more interesting sounds late in the album, such as the dark majority of “One Sided Town,” passionate regardless of being purposefully lethargic or forcefully angry. Unfortunately, there’s so much of Alibi Coast that is frustratingly banal, and not nearly enough excellence to truly make up for all the rest. Alibi Coast is not a great album, but at the same time, it’s worth a listen, at least at times.

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