The London indie-pop band's second album is a modern soundtrack to teenage nights out and romantic endeavours.
I first became aware of Sea Girls when I stumbled across them live at Reading Festival in 2019. The London band were on an early afternoon slot if I’m not mistaken, and they were pretty solid. I remember they had a small cult following as a few hundred people near the stage could be heard belting out their catchy choruses. I remember turning to my friend and doing that instinctive “these are alright” head nod that usually comes out for unknown support acts that impress.
Looking back, I now know this gig would have been before their debut album Open Up Your Head (2020) was released. The songs they were performing must have been singles such as ‘Violet’ that went on to be part of that first offering. I had listened to this debut once at some point and thought there was some good stuff on there, although I didn’t really return to it at all – which usually says something. Fast forward a couple of years and their second album Homesick has just been released (18 March 2022).
The opener, named ‘Hometown’, is a great start to proceedings. It tells the tale of being young and carefree, looking back on these times through the lens of a maturing adult. Lead singer Henry Camamile paints the picture of his, and many people’s, local early-teens nights out. It is more of a sad depiction of his hometown than a love letter to it, talking of formative heartbreaks (“New Year’s Day, going home. I threw up my guts while you kissed someone. I remember it, always”).
He vividly describes this stereotypical village nightlife best in the chorus, where he also conveys how this environment can force young people to go down a vulnerable pathway including drug use:
“In our hometown your old man’s singing
His heart out to Sinatra swinging
That’s life and Tuesday’s gloomy
On Fridays, a school friend’s using
But I don’t wanna die
And I’ll meet you there, but it won’t be tonight
‘Cause I’m alright, I’m alright living
We’re alright and it’s just the beginning”
Placed in the standard big single spot of Track 2 is, you guessed it, a hit single – this one in the form of ‘Sick’. This was the song that really made me click with the band, rather than just appreciating them somewhat at arm’s length. The lyrics and storytelling on this one are excellent. I instantly fell in love with it when I listened to it as a single a few months ago, and almost solely based on that I agreed to buy tickets to an upcoming gig of theirs.
On the album it is primed and ready to reel in the listener from the off with it’s simple beat playing the foil to the crooning vocals. It is probably verse three that brings me back to this track over and over, with its wry social comment on modern consumerism:
“Cause I’m sick of my laptop
I’m always buying
I’m sick of the news, someone’s always dying
But before we die, we all have a purpose
Buy this now
Because you’re worth it”
‘Lonely’ is enough decent follow-up, showing off Camamile’s vocals with some higher pitch stuff. It is a little basic though and doesn’t offer much in the way of his usual relatable lyricism. Fortunately, ‘Someone’s Daughter Someone’s Son’ regains the momentum. Although it starts off spelling out “O.M.G.”, a little cringeworthy to say the least, it becomes an addictive indie banger. When the guitars come in you can’t help but tap along to the melody. Sadly, the spelling of “OMG” is revived again later on, but it’s a small criticism and one that won’t stop me singing along to the chorus time and time again.
The acoustic strumming patterns at the start of ‘Sleeping With You’ remind me of Foster The People’s deep cut ‘Fire Escape’, which was a comparison I welcomed. It is about Camamile struggling to move on with new relationships as his ex-partner is never far from his mind (“Though I’m sleeping with you. I, I never forget her, I never forget her. All your drugs are in my room. But, I never forget her, I never forget her.”)
‘Paracetamol Blues’ is a catchy number. It sounds like a quickened-up Coldplay song* I can’t quite recollect, maybe from Mylo Xyloto? If anyone thinks they know then please get in touch. The guitars in the background are brighter and a little more euphoric than the others. ‘Again Again’ is one I really enjoyed on first listen and the drums complimenting the punchy vocals mean this should have longevity. This one will be a great song live - likewise its successor.
‘Lucky’ has a self-confident chorus that belongs in your pre-drinking playlist, suiting a strutting walk to your mate’s house (“Yeah, I’m on fire tonight, and I’m feeling f***ing lucky and the odds are with me”). But as is often the theme with Camamile’s songwriting, the verses are where the gold resides. One verse here is especially prevalent for the current times:
“Sometimes people grow up in war
Not knowing what the adults are fighting for
If I was born wrong place, wrong time
I’d be thinking ‘Holy shit’, ‘Jesus Christ’”
‘Higher’ is OK but I reckon it would be the most common one for listeners to forget following a full run-through. Much like the opening track, the vocals on the chorus slightly remind me of Sundara Karma. Apart from an alright breakdown towards the end though, it doesn’t really go anywhere too exciting.
Penultimate track ‘Cute Guys’ starts off gently before exploding into an angsty finale. The final 90 seconds is rockier and draws influence from Royal Blood, with headbanging along encouraged.
Closer ‘Friends’ is about appreciating your friends & embracing the idea of having fun with loved ones, even if those hangout activities seem retrospectively futile. It makes the point that killing time with friends is one of life’s great treasures. This is a heartwarming sentiment that makes the song rather unique in the sense that the singer’s closing thoughts are positive ones about friendship rather than romance.
The record somehow feels like it is an admirably naive debut whilst also sounding like it’s been created by an accomplished band. To analyse that perhaps contradictive review, it is likely due to the musicianship being tightknit with slick production whilst the lyrics stray between brilliance and slightly wet/obvious.
You could make a case for this one being a modern soundtrack for teenage nights out, which is surely them successfully delivering their aim considering the album title and its subject matter within it. University students will naturally relate to its angst about romantic endeavours, growing old and missing home. This audience was one that Catfish and the Bottlemen masterfully appealed to on their first two records. Frustratingly, Catfish tried to repeat this formula yet again on 2019’s The Balance, which felt quite inauthentic considering they’d obviously grown older since their youthful musings on their debut in 2014. Let’s hope Sea Girls reflect their ageing process through future music a bit better than they did…
I do enjoy this album as a body of work, it shows a wide enough range of sounds and reference points to keep the listener interested throughout. There are a few songs that will justifiably fall by the wayside on my future listens – and may even never get a runout at one of their gigs – but overall, Homesick is a definite stride forward for them. I think this record will be well received in the live scene and have no doubt that they will gain a new legion of fans at festivals over the summer. They are armed with certified crowd-pleasers, after all.
There is clear potential for Sea Girls to move up to that next level in the future, from the Academys to the Arenas. But for now, that transition can wait. As for all that Homesick looks at the past, the final product is one that can thrive perfectly in the present. It feels like it should be celebrated right now, their choruses bellowed out across muddy fields as the band bask in their own “we’ve made it” moment. They deserve to enjoy the tag of being breakthrough boys this year. With a rise through the ranks looking inevitable, they can just focus on soaking up the singalongs and applause en route.