Charlotte Loseth, aka Sea Oleena, made quite a name for herself last year. As the year went on, she went from YouTube cover star to recording her own beautiful songs to getting featured on sites such as Altered Zones and Pitchfork (and of course, our very own). And for good reason. The songs on her debuts were full of beautiful, sweeping, and sometimes haunting atmosphere, sending you into a most pleasant dream-like state. Needless to say, when her and her brother announced that she’d be releasing a new album, Sleeplessness, sometime in April last month, we all got quite excited. After checking her bandcamp page daily for the whole month, it finally came out on the 13th, we were immediately listening.
Thankfully for us, her artistry has only continued to improve, as have her brother’s production skills. The result is even more haunting and ethereal than her debuts, especially since once again, it’s a fairly short album at just seven songs. Nevertheless, the album is one of the most affecting albums of the year, and as such, is absolutely one of the best.
Sleeplessness kicks off with “Southbound”, a lovely, piano-based track that also serves as the brightest song tone-wise on the album. The piano repeatedly goes through a simple chord progression with various samples and percussion helping to build up the momentum while Charlotte’s voice floats on top as beautifully as ever. From there, the album starts to take on a bit of a darker tone. The minor keys, layered vocals and instruments, and occasional samples all add together to create a foggy, night-like atmosphere for the listener to float through. It’s only fitting, considering so many of the lyrics on the album revolve around the desire for sleep, the inability to do so, or the act itself.
The album floats along beautifully, as though you are trapped in the foggy musings of a rainy day, as you slowly move towards the climax, the especially moody tracks “Sister” and “Milk”. “Sister” starts off fairly similarly to many of the other tracks, with acoustic guitar and Charlotte’s voice covered in a mist, until a couple chords start in on the piano, when things take a turn for the dramatic. Gentle “ooh”s come in to create a truly haunting harmony, with the piano chiming in from time to time, just enough to create subtle tension that pulls at you as you listen. By the time she gets to the line “Take a walk in the crystal city”, you have chills running up and down your spine from the stunning tones.
“Milk” then greets the listener with some gorgeous piano, before moving into a stark landscape with the chords abruptly cutting off to some subtly picked guitar and sparse percussion, while Charlotte instructs you to wake up from your sleep, which she certainly manages to do. As she seemingly contemplates the mechanical motions of everyday life so many go through, she creates an achingly gorgeous song that is certainly anything but ordinary.
As Sleeplessness closes with the incredibly atmospheric “Orion’s Eyes”, you’re left longing for more. The journey through the album is far too short, although you get the feeling that any amount of time would have been. But maybe that’s one of the many beauties of her work. To this point, her releases have all been fairly short, but they still make you feel as though you’ve been on an incredible journey with her through forests and mountains, rain, snow, and sun, before finally reaching the shoreline and realizing that although your travels have come to an end, there’s still so much more to come. And so we wait for the next installment in Sea Oleena’s journey, breathless from the last, but more than ready to pack up and head out right away.
Review by Scott Hoelzer