A homegrown tapestry of sweet, enchantingly intimate folk, The Sea The Sea’s third album ‘Stumbling Home’ is a beautiful and welcome addition to this late summer splendor.
for fans of The Staves, Little Green Cars, Iron & Wine, First Aid Kit
Stream: “Fall Before the Climb” – The Sea The Sea
We hope these are songs that people have when they need to hear them. We trust that’s the way the songs work. May they ring true for you too.
A homegrown tapestry of sweet, enchantingly intimate folk, The Sea The Sea’s third album is a beautiful and welcome addition to this late summer splendor. A heartfelt blend of positivity and melancholy, hope and realism make Stumbling Home a resonant half-hour journey we’ll be ready to embark on time and again in the months and years to come.
it feels like something’s been taken from me
somehow it all got rearranged
same passport, same port of entry
but you don’t look at me the same…
– “Foreign Country,” The Sea The Sea
Released August 28, 2020 via AntiFragile Music, Stumbling Home arrives two impossibly long years after The Sea The Sea’s breathtaking From the Light left us stunned and shaking. Described as “an earthy and celestial folk rock record rooted in lush melody and intimate emotion,” From the Light received a deserving 9.0/10 for its multifaceted and many-textured expanse.
“That album helped us clarify our voice as artists,” the band tell Atwood Magazine, “and so this album feels like an outgrowth of that one, with a little more affinity at times to leaning into the quiet or the spare, and find the joy in those spaces too.”
“There’s nothing quite like the stirring warmth of rich, sweet music, and few bands do it better than The Sea The Sea,” we wrote of the band back in 2018; these words continue to hold true for the band today as they put into song the complex realities of modern life, as felt from their perch in Troy, New York.
“It’s a difficult year to describe, yeh?” the group say of their experience in 2020 alone. “It’s been such a year of extremes — both in its struggles and triumphs—deep sorrows, deep joys. We’ve felt the pull towards so many places we’ve gotten used to to visiting every year — like muscle memory — or being called back to some migrational pattern—and then we’ve felt the ache of the stillness that follows. It’s both grounding and disorienting to be home. But this time has forced us to constantly search for points of connection — with our family, friends, and the entire community around our music—and we’ve been inspired by that challenge. I think being a touring musician, you grow accustomed to being inspired by a challenge. It’s also been an important time of listening and learning, and understanding how and what we can do to help in all the healing that has to be done in the world and in our individual communities. And the change that needs to happen before the healing can really start.”
But this time has forced us to constantly search for points of connection — with our family, friends, and the entire community around our music—and we’ve been inspired by that challenge.
Whereas their sophomore effort found the once-duo expanded into a quartet, 2020 finds couple Chuck and Mira Costa reclaiming the band they founded as a two-piece once more. Describing it as the work they are “most proud of to date,” Stumbling Home finds them working with Grammy and Tony award winner Todd Sickafoose (Hadestown, Anais Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird) to craft an incredibly nuanced, tender, and harmony-laden sonic. Stumbling Home has a vision unto itself: Its lyrics cut deep as its music soothes the soul.
“In the past, we’ve always been limited to a set amount of time in the studio to record an album. There’s something great about that process too, but we felt like we were in a place where it was time for us to spend more time learning how to articulate the creative ideas that we were having on our own,” The Sea The Sea share. “So this album began just by showing up for every creative idea that we had over the course of a year or so, and seeing them all through as far as we could take them. We had 20+ songs that came out of that process during that time, and it started to feel like there was a complete thought within those songs. When we reached out to Todd (Sickafoose) with a group of 18 or so, he chose 13, and then we narrowed down to 10. It feels like an arc that gives each song its moment in the story that it tells. Our process with Todd began with talking about what was working with all of the songs, and then he spent some time really thoughtfully and meticulously listening to the demos, which were the foundational tracks for the final version of the album, and then we chose together tracks that we wanted to keep, re-record, or re-imagine. We wanted it to maintain the spontaneity and the in-the-room feeling of the demos, but elevate and refine some of the elements.”
Speaking to their experience co-producing with Sickafoose, the band reflect on his impact on Stumbling Home as a whole: “One of our favorite things about Todd is was a thoughtful listener he is. He will stick with you until he understands what you’re trying to say. And we really appreciate that, because sometimes the most important ideas are the most nuanced, and they can be challenging to communicate. But he always makes us feel heard—which felt really crucial while collaborating in this way, across the country and across time zones. Todd adds fairy dust to everything. He’ll re-create a simple bass line and then add the most perfectly intricate fill at the exact right moment in a way that makes a song ring that much truer, but never steps on the song. In the way that he’s a good listener, I think he’s good at hearing what a song is trying to say.”
That fairy dust has resulted in a beautifully poignant, powerful sound and a decisively special, heartfelt recording that, per the band, is “simple and true.”
A single listen is all one needs to understand how the remnants of The Sea The Sea’s last album make up a strong base for their new one. “We feel like there’s a part of [From the Light] in this one,” the Costas share. “I think what makes us so excited about this new album is that it feels like it honors all of the iterations of our musical journey so far. And From the Light was such a gift of discovering dynamics, learning to shape live arrangements with more moving parts and other band members, and I think learning the moments and the spaces—with the help of the band—when the added dynamics were their most effective.”
I think finding new combinations and new ways of using our harmonies and melodies is one of the things that keeps us inspired—since it’s at the core of what we do.
But Stumbling Home isn’t a remake, nor is it a replica. It is its own entity – a lighter recording than its predecessor, with a greater folk focus on built-up harmonies and expressive, immersive, and textured soundscapes. “I think part of the drive that we share as artists and collaborators is the drive to evolve in what we do. I think there’s a freedom to these songs that’s exciting. These songs all feel like the best versions of themselves, and we feel like every time we make an album we understand a bit better how to accomplish that.”
Atwood Magazine premiered the single “Parachute” this past Spring, calling it “a stirring lullaby – a beautifully serene folk enchantment that enters our lives like a warm, welcoming musical hug.” “It was the first song we were inspired to record,” the duo recall. “We recorded it in our apartment just a few hours after we wrote it, and there was a warmth in the way it felt that we wanted to lean into. So that was the spark.”
Red, green, yellow, blue
Underneath the parachute
I don’t want to wait
I don’t want to wait too long
Red, blue, yellow, green
I want to know what it means
If I start to stay
If I start to stay too long
My heart inflates like a balloon
Don’t hold too tight
Don’t let go too soon
– “Parachute,” The Sea The Sea
Meanwhile, Stumbling Home opens with the slowly-rising, slow burning song “Nothing Brighter.” The Sea The Sea announce their return not with a shout, but with a strong, growing whisper.
“I think we really like how “Nothing Brighter” interacts with the first few tracks and sets the tone for the rest of the sequence. I also like that it doesn’t feel genre specific. I like that it’s atmospheric. It always feels warm to me. Like a song I want to hang out with. And it’s a nod to not being afraid of losing things that are impossible to lose—and because this album is a lot about moments of understanding—to us, those are things you can’t really lose.”
So begins a record whose ebbs and troughs evoke old memories and sentimental reflections alike; whose lyrics compel us to dwell not in fanciful stories, but in ourselves. The penultimate track “Fall Before the Climb” is an especially compelling listen, both for its message and its delicate lilt.
It’s a special song for the band, as well.
“That’s a favorite of ours too,” they explain. “I think that song was started during a time when we were listening to a lot of Iron & Wine. It used to have a very different feel, and we kept putting it away because we could never get the song to sit quite right. Then Chuck wrote a melody to a chorus and I wrote lyrics, or partial lyrics—I’m not sure if we’ve ever quite written like that before, but it opened up the song in a new way. We really like turning the idea of something getting the “best of” you on its head. It’s the feeling of wanting something to come into your life that asks a lot of you — asks you to be the best version of yourself.”
It’s the feeling of wanting something to come into your life that asks a lot of you — asks you to be the best version of yourself.
Title track “Stumbling Home,” meanwhile, serves as its own breathtakingly beautiful closer. “It feels like that song encompasses what the whole album is about—moments of feeling alive in our understanding—like flashes of light over the course of a life or during a time in your life. There *is* something in putting it last that felt like it said that all of these songs are part of a whole. Stumbling Home has an epilogue quality to it in the overall context that felt right. After writing the song we came across a quote by Ram Dass, “We are all just walking each other home.” For us that quote really grounded “Stumbling Home” with a deeper meaning and understanding and it feels like the song does that very same thing for the rest of the record.”
When one listens through Stumbling Home, one feels a kinship to all those wayward souls looking for their rightful space – that place that is your own, and unequivocally so.
It’s the act of self-discovery and self-assurance – a confident approach into the unknown – that makes The Sea The Sea’s latest so utterly inviting, if not totally tranquilizing. In crafting their new record throughout 2019 and early 2020, The Sea The Sea focused not on the chaos of the surrounding world, but of an inner search for peace and stability that’s inside every one of us.
“I think in the writing of the songs on this album, we let ourselves lean more into writing the songs we needed to hear in certain moments,” the Costas share. “We wanted to treat the songs as wild animals (as our friend Johan Wagner would say) and let them show us where they wanted to go, both in the writing and the production. That led us to really keeping the arrangements to their most essential parts.”
Stumbling Home is uplifting and sobering, self-assured and insecure, personal and universal – a musical rendering of both movement and stillness. A song like the aching “Foreign Country” may bring you to tears with its portrayal of feeling a stranger in one’s own land; or perhaps it will be the bittersweet indulgence in “I’ll Be Loving You” or “Broken” that will do you in.
Wherever we turn on this album, we are sure to be swept off our feet. Such is the enthralling might of The Sea The Sea’s inimitable, uncompromising folk sound.
Our mission statement as a band is to remind people they aren’t alone — in their pains or their joys, and everything in-between.
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside The Sea The Sea’s Stumbling Home with Atwood Magazine as Chuck and Mira take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their third full-length album!
Stream: ‘Stumbling Home’ – The Sea The Sea
:: Inside Stumbling Home ::
This is a song about the part of ourselves that tries to hold on — that moment when you feel joy deeply in a way that makes you immediately afraid to lose it. But it’s also a reminder that the things we really desire most to hold onto, are the things that just stay with us, and that we can’t ever really lose.
A Thousand Years
The clarity that comes with stillness, or with things being stripped down to their most essential. What it is to be under a sky so full of stars that it makes you feel connected to everything, and like even if for a brief, fleeting moment, it all makes sense.
I’ll Be Loving You
What it is to love with a wild spirit. Impulsivity in its best form. To know immediately, and to move bravely toward it with abandon. And sometimes that’s all you have, and it’s exactly the right thing to give.
A breath. A moment of suspension. Things moving in slow motion to come in to focus. Leaning into stillness. Finding balance.
It’s the acknowledgment that we all bring our imperfectly human selves to the table. It’s about learning to see the beauty in that part of ourselves too—the part that gets tired, and worn down, and says the wrong thing. There’s a warmth in seeing each other and ourselves in that kind of light.
Someone I loved once told me that I was broken. I remember the freedom that came from realizing that had way more to do with where that person was at the time, than it did with me. Part of finding my way back to music was un-internalizing that voice—and coming to terms with it just looking obvious in hindsight. It’s celebrating that you can intuitively understand better, and that sometimes there isn’t really a way to fully explain why.
When something familiar seems unfamiliar all of a sudden—whether that be a place or a relationship. It’s a song that continues to resonate in new ways as we move through the constantly shifting state of our country, and of our world.
The deep feeling of knowing that something has arrived or is on its way. Like the feeling you get when a storm is rolling in. Or when you meet someone who you know will change your life. And that finding your way to that person or that thing isn’t always a linear path—you often have to get lost over and over along the way.
Fall Before The Climb
To dig yourself out of a feeling. To move through the struggle to the joy. And what it is to want something to come into your life that asks a lot out of you—something that requires you to show up with your best self.
After we wrote this song we came across the Ram Dass quote “we’re all just walking each other home” and that’s sums up so perfectly what we mean here. We’re all moving through life, through it all, together. And we’re all tripping over things, including ourselves along the way. And sometimes the moments that look the most mundane from the outside, are really our most triumphant. Moments which like flashes of light, a million years from now, to anyone else would just seem like a flicker of a star—but that there’s something spectacular in that too.
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? © Kiki Vassilakis
:: Stream The Sea The Sea ::