Review: The Little Ships Sail a Haunting Landscape on ‘Alone Together’

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Alone Together is persuasive. It invites the listener to slow dance, alone, with someone, or in that head space where one finds the perfect partner to hold and sway. This body of work from The Little Ships is capable of complete seduction in less than a full spin of the album. You will fall into it, breathing the barren landscape as it rolls past, surprising, impressing, and inviting you to strip and wait for the payoff.

Unless I already know the band, I purposely stay away from any research before my first listen. When I heard the vocals on the disc, I couldn’t be fooled. A familiar voice forced me to peek at the one-sheet, and I discovered it was Ty Willman. Rich, lovely and heartfelt, Ty’s storytelling is spot on.

Mastered by Floyd Reitsma, who worked with Willman and Regan Hägar on Fires’ recent release The Litho Roughs, the music demonstrates how clearly Reitsma understands the differences between the two bands and helped craft this haunting collection, which is so very different.

Alone Together is a weird, wonderful nine songs with Mike McNamara on piano, Kathy Moore on axe, Regan Hägar and McNamara on rhythm (the latter of whom is also on bass), and Willman. More familiar names that had a hand in making this are Happy Chichester and Stone Gossard.

“Fire Hits Skin” builds into a wonderfully frantic surge, slick and slightly nasty; ending with a whiny thread of sound, while “Mosquito” is creepy, epic and has some unorthodox, retro chord progressions. The dirty, but oh so lovely guitar in “Nova” makes me happy. It’s got a nice little groove and some sweet harmonies. “Impinge” is thoughtful, compelling spoken word, which provides a quick change-up, but doesn’t interrupt the flow.

The roots of the songs grew from some jam sessions across the pond more than two years ago, and the title of the album is explained by Mike, “Alone Together was something Ty said on one of our online chats. We’d regularly swap demos, ideas, etc. and one day he said something like, ‘So here we are, alone together.’ It was perfect as it completely summed up the nature of how we were recording the album.”

“The music has literally been beamed across the globe,” Mike said, which is why, when I plugged it in to my head on a recent train trip, it was the perfect soundtrack for my journey through the Columbia Gorge.

With a release date of October 31, the band plans to put it out on vinyl, but that date is still unknown.  The album was originally sequenced for vinyl, Mike said, and “Clean Me Up” closes side one.

(You can order Alone Together at www.karvemusic.com, or consult www.thelittleships.com for an immediate download of the record. Stream the track “Shiver” below via SoundCloud.)

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