The first track from The Faithful Anchor that I heard was a live version of “Our Nights” posted on the band’s website. I was afraid that Unwed Sailor’s new album would never come out, so this little taste was a welcome relief, and my friends and I gathered around some crappy computer speakers to listen to it. It’s a gentle, unassuming song, like most of Unwed Sailor’s music. It starts out slowly, almost hesitantly, with its plaintive melodies and gentle bassline. But its final moments are full of confidence and triumph, and of the divine peace that the album title refers to.
Even in its live, stripped down version, “Our Nights” did it for me. It became a sort of personal soundtrack. I would listen to it at work, in my windowless office in the dead of winter, and I’d be reminded of warm nights spent with friends and loved ones. Nights spent holding hands and sharing secrets, nights that could only exist in the month of July. And hearing that song on The Faithful Anchor in its “full” version, complete with a haunting organ coda, it’s even more so.
Much of The Faithful Anchor does that to me. And I confess that I feel hardpressed to give some quantitative reason why. After all, there are no lyrics (with the exception of the final track), no poetic or clever ruminations on life and love. Instead, it’s uncanny how Unwed Sailor is able to convey emotion through a simple melody, a brush of a cymbal, a rolling bassline. In other words, these songs feel complete. If there were lyrics, the effect would be lessened.
Only rarely does Unwed Sailor rely on volume and intensity to get their point across. And even then it’s only used rarely within a song. Many of these songs are perfectly content to meander and take their time, letting the melodies work their way into your mind. Repetition is Unwed Sailor’s secret weapon here, albeit in a Steve Reich-esque sort of way. As the melodies play out, subtle variations are worked in, adding whole new dimensions. And thankfully, Unwed Sailor knows the meaning of the word economy.
Unlike some instrumental outfits, Unwed Sailor is able to work without resorting to orchestral flourishes, huge walls of sound, or crazy sound collages. The beauty of their music lies in its attention to detail. Each song feels like it was painstakingly crafted so that they could use the simplest arrangements to convey the most emotion. With the album lasting less than 40 minutes, these 9 songs rarely have a chance to outlast their welcome.