Although I'd never heard one word about The Boats before listening to Songs By The Sea, I've become won over by its quiet and simple charm. Imagine an album of lo-fi electronic music that sounds like it was literally constructed for life on a houseboat. Playful electronic melodies coo off one another while skittering beats click and sputter and ocassional vocals breath into the mix. A reference point could be Múm or even some of the earlier Morr Music label melodic IDM, but while they're somewhat similar, neither one really does The Boats justice either.
Songs By The Sea is a batch of 10 tracks that run just under an hour long and while they often take their time in reaching a destination, that's also part of the charm of the release. "Lessley" opens the disc with layers of vocals, some looped and some sung. Soft synth pads provide the base melody and acoustic guitar and minimal percussion help keep it in time. "It's Not Your Fault (It's How Air Works)" follows with a more standard-sounding instrumental before one of the best tracks on the album drops in "And There Are Stars That Fell From The Sky." Again mixing beautiful wordless vocals with a lo-fi electronic sensibility and some more aggressive starts and fits of percussion, the track progresses and builds into a thing of real beauty.
As with other groups doing somewhat similar things, The Boats are at their best when blending a unique combination of the organic with electronic. Straight-up melodic electronic music has been done so many times that by itself it simply feels flat most of the time, and The Boats wisely add touches of guitar, piano, and vocals much of the time to keep things a bit more grounded (even if the elements are heavily-filtered much of the time). "I Ignore All My Friends" is a gem that starts out fairly standard but moves into an almost Kompakt-esque minimal techno midsection before closing with a swirling ramshackle haze that works wonderfully. Having said all of the above, the album does run a smidge long in places, but it's still one of the better releases I've heard like this in some time. The album closer of "Kind Regards" brings the percussion back in a big way alongside melodica and plenty of squiggly electronics for a real treat. If you like any of the aforementioned, by all means hunt down Songs By The Sea, as you won't be dissapointed.