Shipwreck is a band whose identity is irrevocably connected with the stories and the folklore they create. Each of the songs on their album Origin are like engaging puzzles inviting the listener to find the few pieces left to fill in.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the song “Island of the City,” which depicts French monuments and landscapes that become phantoms, feminine sirens that rack both the song’s central character and the listener with longing. “Come on home / if you can / because I’m not leaving here.” It’s this hauntingly simple chorus that builds into an achingly sincere falsetto, reaching into something that’s neither lovesick nor homesick but everything in between.
“Orphan” starts out quietly enough with a simple drum machine sequence, but this is soon replaced by a jarring guitar motif that underscores something darker and more sinister. “Sawbones” is a nightcap drenched in sanguineous tremolo; it soothes and then stings like a warm shot of brandy.
“Coyote” starts as an animal’s narrative of survival, but there’s a dismay in the drawl of its chorus slide guitar that points to something grander, heartfelt and tragic in the creature’s passing of perilous terrain it understands only in vague notions of “chain link fences” and “blinding lights.”
Larger still, there’s something chivalrous in its playful surf guitar passages, something innate to its fabric that describes the sense of traversing through heaven and hell for the ideal of love. The closing song, “Coma,” with its words, “Who was here before?” spoken over gentle piano crescendos and recumbent sighs, reaches a soaring finality, then sets into the distance.
From these and other moments, the measure of Origin becomes clear.
Figurative, literary and beautiful, it is a triumph of musical and lyrical affinity.