Quickly proving itself a home for expectation devouring surprise and imagination firing fascination, MMXXII is the new album from Bay Area soul rockers SEAL PARTY. Not quite kaleidoscopic but a release which hungrily embraces a mercurial landscape of invention and sound, the band’s debut is bold adventure with eclectic enterprise and quicksilver initiative fuelling its unique character and organic temptation; a canvas of enterprise which saw our captivation keenly left in its wake.
SEAL PARTY is the creation of songwriting-production duo Chris McGrew (drums/production) and Kevin Seal (keyboards/vocals), a project formed by the pair after numerous years helping other artists realize their visions. Listening to their first full-length you can sense the experiences and inspirations of those years colouring their own individuality and a sound also drawing on ‘70s soul, rock and R&B yet every minute presented a truly fresh experience indeed crafted by “improvisation, fury, and lyrical beauty”.
MMXXII also sees the duo draw on a host of collaborators; 22 in all which included the likes of Isaiah Sharkey (D’Angelo, John Mayer, Patti LaBelle), Keyon Harrold (D’Angelo, Maxwell), Larry Boothroyd (Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Victims Family), bassist Uriah Duffy (Whitesnake, Fantastic Negrito), saxophonists Kenneth Whalum (Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Maxwell, Justin Timberlake) and Daniel Casares (Atta Kid, Jazz Mafia, the New Mastersounds), guitarist Jonnie Axtell (Psychefunkapus, Dee Snider, Tone Loc), trumpeter Rich Armstrong (Spoon, Boz Scaggs, Tony! Toni! Tone!), and vocalists Kimiko Joy and Renee Padgett and many more.
Turpentine opens up MMXXII, a track with a relaxed yet firm swing which swiftly got under the skin. Drama soaks its brass flames and magnetic character its vocal prowess, the track a rich roar of soul bred rock but equally unpredictability as more art rock essences emerge led by Kevin’s increasingly animated piano keys.
Like its predecessor the following Never The Problem urged keen participation, its gentle entrance cinematic and soon a blossom of temptation through Kevin’s vocals and piano. There is power and emotion in every syllable and note, the rhythms of Chris a guiding hand in the progressively spirited romance.
The diversity of sound already unveiled expands further with the country tinged, jazz hued contemplation of Serenella, a track with a great sense of improvisation to its imagination stoking presence while He Has Your Eyes brings an Americana breath to the release and a deep senses of emotive intimacy to the tales the record shares; another potent piece of storytelling coming within Jimmy Just Clams Up. It is a song with a Steely Dan essence to its soulful stroll and tale and a considered gait which only sparked swaying hips and keen throats; both growing livelier courtesy of its twists and turns.
Juvie hit favourite song spot next with its alt rock bred rock ‘n’ roll, a contagious stomp with an ear gripping story greedily devoured before Elijah Mcclain serenaded spent energy with its female led drama of word and a compelling soul thick sound. Again captivation was easily given and in turn for the calm but forceful persuasion of Maison; a track which also is low key in its urgency yet one inescapably catchy and manipulative proposal rich in flavours and esurient in temptation.
As we said earlier, surprise is another potent essence of the album and the hip hop contemplation of Dedication certainly caught out and ignited the imagination, its theatre of sound around that rumination a weave of animated free form incitement in its own right.
Through the melodic and creative majesty of Kaleka and the seventies lit soulful instrumental of CDLXXVI we were only drawn deeper into the album and band’s variable webs of creativity, the likes of The Fire Escape with its theatrical dynamics and the new wave/power pop infused rock ‘n’ roll of The Public Eye taking even firmer grip on greedy attention.
That theatric potency also lights up Superhero, a track with something of The Scaramanga Six to it which in every aspect enthralled before You’ll Be Fine closes out the album in fine multi-flavoured style. It epitomises every rich element and temptation of the SEAL PARTY sound, songwriting and raw imagination and an album which fascinated and exhilarated by the listen.
MMXXII is released digitally and on CD and Vinyl August 5th via New Age Distribution and available for pre-ordering now @ https://sealparty.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 28/07/2022
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