Pulling up onto album number five, it’s wonderful to see that Canadian collective Seaway have found the freedom to stray from their pop punk roots. In their ninth year together, their new record Big Vibe sees them entertain the power of upbeat pop, mixed with more personal, melancholy lyrics than we’ve ever heard from them before.
‘Wild Things’ is the biggest curveball we’re thrown. Filled with pop percussion, smooth verses and melodic vocal tones, it’s got a stronger resemblance to their Punk Goes Pop cover of The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’ than anything else from their own originally discography. Similarly, album opener ‘Brain In A Jar’ and later track ‘If You Let Me’ immediately hit with a new pop rock style driven by preppy, sonic riffs, production-enhanced vocals and a classic catchy chorus full of the typical “woohoohoos” and “ahhhhs”, reminiscent of new-era All Time Low.
Despite the majority of the album being upbeat and featuring the fun side we know and love of Seaway, some are accompanied with darker lyrics. For example, the heavy indie track ‘Still Blue’ has high tuned riffs and big hooks that feel like pop punk meets The Vaccines in their prime, but is dowsed in pessimism. While Seaway have covered a few woeful or self-deprecating topics in their time, Big Vibe seems to have the most and more serious. Slow, sad anthem ‘Pathetic’ is of the same vein as ‘Freak’ and ‘Goon’ taken from their 2015 album Colour Blind, and has the same pop punk edge. However, the lyrics are less playful and more cutting, such as “I don’t deserve the skin I’m living in.” This tone is quickly changed though by the following preppy (yet slightly dull) pop rock track ‘Sweet Sugar’, but it’s not forgotten. It resurfaces later in the form of closing track ‘Sick Puppy’, which plays with the “friend of a friend” cover up for stark lyrics like “I’ve been drowning in the tub” and “wouldn’t mind if they forgot my name” that are heavier than ever expected. Big Vibe not only shows Seaway becoming more comfortable trying out new genres, but also putting out more genuine and vulnerable lyrics which we can appreciate.
The album’s highlight lies in a track that was originally not meant to even exist, and was only written in at the last moment. The more emotive love song ‘Mrs. David’ is pop rock excellence surprisingly inspired by Tom Petty’s songwriting style. However, the title and mischievousness of the lyrics imply these feelings are forbidden, almost in a ‘Stacy’s Mom’/teacher/adultery situation. As with ‘Sick Puppy’, Ryan Locke carries most of the emotion in his vocals in a way that has never really been done before. His overall vocal ability and range has been given far more opportunities to shine across Big Vibe and certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The only real downfall found here is the angsty rock attempt ‘Wicked’. While featuring distorted and down-tuned riffs and the occasional shouted line, there is still an undeniable pop tinge which makes it a rather confusing blend, not up to par with the rest. It neither fits in with the new styles they’re experimenting with, nor particularly matches anything previous, so merely sticks out like a sore thumb.
With Big Vibe, no two songs are alike in style, preventing any stagnancy throughout the album, and proving Seaway shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as a pop punk band any longer. The title implies listeners are in for 11 pop punk bangers, but actually shows anything can be a big vibe if you’re open to it.
Big Vibe is released October 16th via Pure Noise Records.