Brandon Boyd has never been shy about showing off his artistic side, whether it’s his scrapbooks, his uncanny knack of consistently delivering lyrics that open up a chasm of intrigue to a listener, or his army of self-designed tattoos that line up like traffic jams all over his body. Sons of the Sea is the latest exponent of his prodigious imagination and creativity, and it arrives in the form of playful stomping pop, awash with the highest of spirits and eye-of-the-beholder dream worlds. Under a new moniker, Boyd has teamed with Brendan O’Brien, a long-time collaborator and producer of Boyd’s musings, and produced an unofficial follow-up to his debut solo record (2010’s The Wild Trapeze).
It can be decided that Sons of the Sea is unmistakably a Boyd project merely from checking out the album artwork. It, in itself, could sell for as much as some of his more lucrative prints. A symmetrical dusty gorge is at the forefront of a twilit sky that resembles a backlit canopy, with holes punched in it (sorry…), all overlain by a curious image that could be anything from an ancient rune to the friendliest of dream catchers. It’s overflowing with something like Zen, and is hugely indicative to the sounds it represents on the record. The introductory notes of Jet Black Crow act as a stringent raising of a curtain that reveals a treat for an onlooker. Spirits are sky-high, and choral vocals invite you in to explore the warmth within. A bright, jovial and ultimately simple chord progression implies an untethered (there’s even a track on the record named Untethered!) chance to roam, and Boyd’s vocals are never anything less than flawless. His range is as gaping as ever, and his lyrics still have that same gift of allowing you to plumb the deepest depths for an artfully delivered, deep-seated message. Sons of the Sea is joyfully stimulating from the outset, and a captivating way to occupy the Incubus hiatus period.
The record is pure pop music, but it’s a completely different species. Much of today’s music that falls under the often hideous umbrella of pop music is devoid of any concept or connotation, but Sons of the Sea brings everything from suggestion to significance unabashedly to the forefront, progressing like an image devised via an etch-a-sketch, leaving itself open for its own interpretation and providing a canvas for all kinds of serene perception to roam free. Brendan O’Brien’s guitar input provides a new limb for Boyd’s ideas to express themselves much more effectively than in the case of The Wild Trapeze, where Boyd’s ingenuity often felt like it was on a tightly-wound leash held strong by the music that he provided in its entirety.
The record bounces along playfully throughout, flooded with devastatingly catchy tracks and endless opportunities to jovially stomp to sprightly, simplistic rhythms. Plus Minus and Come Together will stay in any given head for several hours, but the true highlight of the record arrives with the 7th track. Where The Songs Come From supplies a tangled, sprawling web of guitar long enough for you to appreciate its charm, before Boyd’s enchanting vocals speak from within it. The chorus is here is the first hint of concern, crooning “you’ve got yourself into this” candidly over an army instruments that unveil a pertinent soundscape. The track typifies Boyd’s ability to explicitly transmit deductions, whether it’s through music, art or a combination of the two, and in the case of Sons of the Sea, his ability to manufacture soundscapes entirely intrinsic to the cogs working in his mind.
If anyone was in doubt of just how demiurgic a human mind can be, Brandon Boyd, with the help of Brendan O’Brien, has confirmed that his is as powerful as any paintbrush. Sons of the Sea is art in itself, and is a hidden district where fabrication knows no bounds. The record itself is an open invitation for others to delve into its boundaries and surmount them, and is pop music like you won’t have heard before, not to be categorized anywhere near much of the interminable dross that falls under the larger pop umbrella. Over a decade on from the brilliant records that Incubus put forward, Boyd has found another medium to celebrate his vivid enterprise. For those who can’t wait for the Incubus hiatus to end, theirfrontman has found an encapsulating metamorphosis in the meantime. An 81% is another string to a very well populated bow.
FIRST PUBLISHED ON NO RIPCORD