The Ballad of the Broken Seas

Band: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Album: The Ballad of the Broken Seas
Best song: The cover of “Ramblin’ Man” is great. I love “Black Mountain.” I know I shouldn’t like “Honey Child What Can I Do?” but I do.
Worst song: “It’s Hard to Kill a Bad Thing” is just OK.

I once wrote that people that think Belle & Sebastian is great pop music are “assholes.” Despite being a minor fan – I have four of the band’s seven studio albums – I tend to think the band’s fans are overbearing and stake too much on B+S’ track record as fantastic musicians. They’re nice, but a little bit of twee goes a very, very long way.

Nevertheless, I am an abject sucker for a ladyvoice, so I decided to grab the collaboration between former B+S cellist/vocalist Isobel Campell and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, The Ballad of the Broken Seas. Lanegan’s voice has gone through something of a metamorphosis since the band’s sole hit, 1992’s “Nearly Lost You.” Lanegan’s strength has moved to the low end and his mid range vibrato is nearly gone. Taking from Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Lanegan’s voice is strong and gritty.

Indeed, Lanegan and Campbell each provide a strong, distinct voice to the record. Campbell’s twee stylings remain within the genre’s boundaries, but, placed in a more folk enviroment, the juxtaposition is much more pleasant. While a band like Flyleaf relies on a different juxtaposition of metal and twee vocals, the twee/folk situation is much more relaxing and, quite frankly, pretty.

As a record, The Ballad of the Broken Seas isn’t terribly well-constructed, as the songs tend to run together. The Lanegan-focused songs are memorable if only because Lanegan’s voice is stronger (though not better). The cover of “Ramblin’ Man” features Campbell’s wonderful whisper sweet vocal singing harmonies and Campbell’s contributions are truly the highlight of the song and, essentially, the record.

Lushly arranged, the record has the feel of a classic pop record. Campbell’s signature cello exist, but in smaller ways and in easy to digest pieces. The album works well as background music, largely because the record doesn’t fall into the crazy highs and lows of much music. Like a great jazz record, The Ballad of the Broken Seas is a wonderfully pleasant, enjoyable record.

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  • By Hawk | Albums That I Own on September 22, 2011 at 9:30 am

    […] Campbell have put out three albums, with the latest being Hawk. The album ranks somewhere between the first and Sunday at Devil Dirt. Hawk is a more solid album, with larger highs. Campbell’s […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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