As much bite as top-shelf whisky with lyrics that are at times both deliciously absurd and all around endearing, is the best way to describe the earnest and inspired work of On The Water. Their debut, False Starts, is anything but another ordinary indie folk record in a sea of what the genre has to offer. Its look into the human heart and soul is captivating, while the nature of the overall style remains fun and unfamiliar.
The first thing heard is the quiet whispers of everyone involved in the studio followed by standup bass, violin, a whole crowd of singers and, of all things, a banjo, exploding into the opener, “Sealegs,” a song about the inherent fear and uncertainty of rushing in romantically. Though it’s only a short 1:54 in length, it makes a great impact, and immediately hooks the listener.
On The Water does nothing to prolong its music with unnecessary build up, instead focusing on poetic verses with no repetition in their lyrics, and gearing the tunes to blend beautifully with the tone ranging from somber and melodic to lively songs to pour a drink and move to. The band continues opening and sometimes closing their tracks with distant background banter throughout. It makes you feel like you’re there in the studio with the group more than listening to a mixed and edited release, but it suits them well.
13 musicians lent their voices and instrumental talent to creating False Starts, and did an impressive job at that. While likely forever remaining a hidden gem in the underground outside of the mainstream charts, the album is a true-to-its-roots folk artifact and for the level of dedication and rawness that went into making it, that’s probably just fine with them.