From the first second of hearing any album, I immediately notice two things - the production and the songwriting. Pretty obvious, I know. But in this day in age, one of those things can ruin the other or vice versa. An album can have mediocre songs, but the production is great, so we tend to enjoy the album a little bit more because of it. (see: Beck's Sea Change). On the other hand, an album can have great songs but the production can be completely wrong for it (see: Ray Lamontagne's Trouble). When the perfect combination of production and songwriting come together, the result is usually magical. Case in point: Los Angeles' The Coral Sea. Their debut album, Volcano And Hearts, is the perfect example of beautiful songwriting whose quality and perfection is augmented by the effortless arrangements and crispness of its recording technique. This album was actually self-released in 2005 by the band and we featured a track on our Cornerstone Player CD/DVD compilation back then, so this band and this album have both been on our radar for some time now. However, the record HAS been remastered and remixed and all that good stuff, so it sounds even better than we all remembered!
The first thirty seconds of this album has more mystery and elegance in it than any other album I've heard in a long while. It's got the guitar of a classic U2 song and the strings of Eleanor Rigby. It takes a page right out of the George Martin recording guide. Martin recorded The Beatles' string sections so close that you could hear the quartet's fingers move up the frets. The band and co-producer Tom Flowers take no shame in using the same idea. "Look At Her Face" quickly jumps into a full on epic rock song but does not lose its intimacy for a second. The whole album feels "close." They want you to feel like you're in the room with them.
Throughout all of Volcano And Hearts, lead singer Rey Villalobos skips from being Television's Tom Verlaine to Radiohead's Thom Yorke (if Thom Yorke were good looking). Doesn't make sense? Well, just take my word on it. Listen to the album and you'll know what I mean. On the third track, "In Between The Days," Villalobos claims, "I want to do something that takes my breath away/And makes me not want to go home at the end of the day." He is of course talking about this album, which solidifies my idea that Villalobos has waited his whole life for his to chance to listen to his masterpiece from start to finish.
The production skips from George Martin to Nigel Godrich to Daniel Lanois and never misses the overall elegance and perfectionist aspect that each producer was known for. This album never sounds raw, but never sounds over-produced. It never sounds bored, but never sounds over excited either. Sit back, stand up, lie down, take a walk, run a mile, go to sleep. Just make sure you don't forget to put this album on while you're doing it.