Before this review can proceed, there's something that must be addressed: The Sea doesn't live up to its name. It isn't nautical. It doesn't evoke waves and sand. It isn't an ode to yachting like Tennis' Cape Dory, or a beach-themed blast like anything from Best Coast, or a stormy weather album like Beach House's Bloom. If we're going to talk tributes to the ocean, anything less than total devotion isn't going to cut it. Bjork once plugged an extension cord into her mic, unspooled it through the door, and recorded herself singing to the sea. So Misun's new EP is not what you should listen to if you want to smell the salty air and think about the loneliness of lighthouses or what have you.
Misleading title aside, The Sea is a promising debut from Misun, a D.C.-based trio comprised of Misun Wojcik, William DeVon and Nouveau Riche member Nacey, who produced the album. Misun get their kicks exploring different shades of pop: Motown bounce on "My Time," modified disco on "July," an emo-R&B hybrid on "Cutoff." The standout is Wojcik's voice. It's similar to Santigold's—she exhibits that same combination of ease and flirtation as Santi White, but with an extra little tremor at the end of sustained notes that has the power to melt a few hearts. Vocals play a prominent role on Misun songs, as they should, but the band also squeezes an impressive range of sounds and instruments onto only six tracks. "My Time" mixes buoyant tambourine with disorganized synths and squeaky-clean keyboards. "Coffee" has a yearning chorus ("Stay/Just for a little while/At least for another hour"), acoustic strumming and a charming bit of whistling that might be the EP's highlight.
It's easy to see that Misun are still figuring things out. The new-band strain is most evident when the songs start off taut and then start to ramble: "Cutoff," "Dry" and the title track would benefit from shaving off a chorus or two. Tracks with live drums occasionally suffer from mismatched tempos, a problem that doesn't happen on the songs that use drum machines. But inconsistencies and minor structural issues can be forgiven. At least, they should be forgiven. On this EP, Misun have culled seemingly incompatible influences and churned them into playful pop music. Is the music really "aquawave," as the band has described it? It's debatable. The Sea has little to do with the sea, and it doesn't matter a bit.