Southeast Engine recorded From the Forest to the Sea in a creaky 19th century, bat-filled middle school in Stewart, Ohio. The album feels appropriately rustic, though mostly due to the lo-fi organ and the slight echoes emanating from an old timey piano.
Still, there's nothing antiquated about this band's ideas. Like Johnny Cash and the Violent Femmes ("Country Death Song," specifically) Southeast Engine sings about the darker side of humanity. In "Law-Abiding Citizen" an offshore oil cartographer climbs the corporate ladder. In "Two of Every Kind" a family man meets "lady midnight" in a dim diner. The lesser songs linger in slowly rendered hopefulness, which is less compelling. But the best tracks, like the Rolling Stones-styled "Black Gold" and gritty garage tune "Malcontent" keep it rockin' while bursting with anxiety.
This is definitely a religious album: Titles include references to Noah's ark and the flood. But the band doesn't seem out to save anyone. No proselytizing here, and no cut-and-dried resolutions. Instead, frontman Adam Remnant spins tales of people who take the long way to salvation—and sometimes never make it. And because he sings in first person, there's no sense that he's accusing anyone but himself, which makes the record all the more embraceable.
Southeast Engine plays the Badlander Tuesday, June 29, at 9 PM with Velcro Kicks and Deny the Dinosaur. $5.