How to categorize Sea Ray? Chamber rock? Indie-infused, cello rock? Well, as Andy Partridge once wisely wrote a song on such inanity, “this is pop” and it makes no matter at the end of the day.
Sea Ray formed in 1997 in Brooklyn, inspired by classic psychedelia, ’90s shoegaze, space rock, and the British Invasion. Steeped in guitar reverb, the band broadened its sound to feature cello, piano, and synths. Anne Brewster’s cello, a secret weapon very few rock bands had in their arsenal, gave the band distinction in a “ocean” (sorry!) of competition. It’s a prominent and important feature of the band’s sound; as much so as the oboe was in the beautiful later records of the Go-Betweens.
WIth a self-released debut album in 1997, Sea Ray released a follow-up EP in 1999. They discovered a sizeable fan base in 2003, with their highly acclaimed sophomore album, ”Stars at Noon” (The Self-Starter Foundation). Produced by Peter Katis (Death Cab for Cutie) and Pete Min (Longwave), the album received heavy airplay on Seattle’s KEXP, LA’s KCRW, and Ohio’s WOXY (where it reached #1).
After touring with The Church (when I saw the band), The Stills, Longwave, and Metric, as well as The Walkmen, Interpol, the New Pornographers, and Yo La Tengo, the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2005. I still remember that Facebook post from guitarist Greg Zinman announcing the sad news.
Flash forward to today and we have exciting news and new music. Coming December 2nd, a 20th anniversary remaster and vinyl reissue of ”Stars at Noon” is released. As a big fan of the record already, the remaster isn’t a revolutionary aural departure from the original as the mix sounds just as it was to my ears. But no matter, as the LP was essentially perfect at the time of release 20 years ago.
A reunion show December 2nd at the Knitting Factory will celebrate the album and hopefully will feature two new recordings.
“Lashes”, the first of these recordings, was just released last week (October 17). It’s an outstanding single, fresh with lively tempo shifts, seemingly capturing Sea Ray right where they left off. Listening more closely you can hear Jordan Warner’s once smooth voice is now a little ragged, a little weary, which complements the mournful cello and lyrics well.
Listen in, and let’s hope this is more than a one-off reunion and that we’ll hear more new music in 2024. Yes, please!