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Victory at Sea - The Good Night



The clouds of melancholy have yet to clear from the skies above Victory At Sea. Like the band's previous two albums, the songs that make up The Good Night are intricate and beautiful, but in a dark and dreary sort of way. This is the type of music you listen to on a rainy day, perfectly aware that it is bringing you deeper into your dismal mood, and yet you would never even think about pushing the button on your stereo to stop it. For example, take just one listen to the opening "Mary In June." The beautifully heartbreaking voice of Mona Elliott is certainly the focal point, while the vivid layers of drums, guitars and strings seem to play tug-of-war with your heart. Songs like "Canyon" contain slightly upbeat portions, at least in comparison to other tracks, but it all remains part of a rather dark landscape. "The Liar" rocks harder than many tracks, showcasing new drummer Carl Eklof and his ability to lay down breezily brushed rhythms one minute, aggressively pounded beats the next. "Old Harbor" is the perfect two-minute soundtrack to an approaching storm, followed by the equally brief "Proper Time," which evokes similarly brooding emotions. The aptly titled "Sunny Days" seems to hint at some sort of turning point, like the sun finally beginning to peak through the clouds, or the light finally making itself visible at the end of the tunnel, but that glimpse of hope is cut short with the downtrodden simplicity of "A Song For Brian" and the more atmospheric brooding of "Voices On The Bluebird Of Happiness." And the album just wouldn't feel right if things ended on an up note emotionally, hence bassist Mel Lederman bringing his piano and Rhodes work into the foreground on "Kelly's Landing," a morose instrumental featuring sound samples of children yelling, thunder rolling, and so on. And finally, as this emotional roller coaster ride finally nears its finishing point, the warmth and simplicity of "Firefly" seems to wrap itself around you like a warm blanket riddled with holes, trying in vain to protect you from the storm it has brought on. Many things get pulled to the forefront while listening to this record. One is the brevity of some of the band's efforts, with a handful of songs running for less than, or just around two minutes. Others run a little longer, but still not as long as you would expect. Such songs lead you on a bit of a journey, and then disappear, stopping short of where you were expecting to go. Another thing is the intensity of the emotion Victory At Sea weaves throughout every song. "It was summer, I remember going fishing for the first time / Caught a small one, threw it back / Seagull flew by and ate it up / Yeah, he died," sings Elliott on the closing "Firefly," giving a parting glimpse of the hopelessness that resides within The Good Night. But it is rare that something so sad sounds so lovely. (Eddie Fournier)


Real Detroit Weekly

At first, I got an image of Courtney Love, mellowed, rehabilitated and just as angry, but in a much more subtle way. Next, a few hints of Shirley Manson and Fiona Apple waved through my brain. But nothing really hit the nail on the head. Later in the album, I realized that what I was hearing was really good "chick rock," and, with so few comparisons in the industry, of course these were the influences I found first. Honestly, Victory at Sea are all of these things and none of them at once. If you skip my first fumbling attempts to categorize this band, you'll find that this is a very soul-bearing album. You really feel like you're looking into someone's nicotine-stained heart and seeing them for all their shortcomings and horrified beauties. Mona Elliott's lyrics will entrance you and force you to feel everything she's been through and feared.

Reason to Buy: The pure simplicity becomes addictive, and every song leaves you in a passive-aggressive fury towards anything.

Best Listening Experience: Desperation and hopelessness never sounded so good as they do on "Old Harbor;" and "Sunny Days," two songs later, provides a chillingly wonderful juxtaposition.

- Marisa Lampert


San Francisco Bay Guardian

What does a good night consist of on an album that ends with the words "I'll watch you die"? Victory at Sea's third full-length release sounds like the answer is gloomy stories told by a hearth with no wood in it, much less a roaring fire; accusations, to self and others; a distaste for temperate weather.

On The Good Night, the Boston-based trio - Mona Elliott on guitar and vocals, Mel Lederman on bass and keyboards, and Carl Eklof on drums - start with a storm and end up in a lull that makes even death threats sound like something to worry about later. On the first track, "Mary in June," Elliott sings to an exhausted, isolated woman plagued by state-induced heat waves. On the last high notes she can't quite reach but gets to anyway, she sings, "Wishes sometimes comes true / If I could have one wish / I'd give my wish to you," then repeats herself with a force that could be conviction but sounds more like frustration. On "Liar" she describes a state of misplaced trust in its simplest terms - "I repeat what you have told me / What you told me / It's not true" - measuring out her anger in careful, cold syllables and letting it loose in the driving guitar line that takes over the chorus: "So now I / I am a liar / Like you."

The last track, "Firefly," feels slower, more placid, with samples of children and a beach scene, but the lyrics draw a timeline in the sand that connects memories of animal mortalities to a recent affair so ill-fated that someone ends up in a bottle floating out to sea - a victory, maybe. Elliott sounds as if she were made to sing about such personal disasters (I keep thinking of Thalia Zedek, who is, in fact, credited for vocals on the traditional "The Bluebird of Happiness"); she brings a distraught intensity to the simplest lyrics. The best of the album is like that, with highs and lows that make orchestral movements out of worsening moods and unfortunate incidents. (Lynn Rapoport)



For me, the most entertaining music videos have always been the ones with at least the suggestion of a plot, something going on other than the band members rocking out. Victory at Sea's music hits me in the same way as those videos; Mona Elliott creates characters and tells their stories within the limited framework of rhyme schemes and math-rock rhythms. "Mary in June", The Good Night's first track, begins quiet and intense, gradually building to a frayed lament for a war wife living "alone in a tower protected by a maze...before cars ruled the streets". A sense of isolation and desperation pervades the instrumentation as well as the lyrics, with a jagged violin part and gloomy interplay between the guitar and bass, not to mention the plaintive wail that Elliott's voice becomes near the end of the song. "Canyon" switches between conversational, piano-enhanced verses and a rousing 3/4-time chorus, and makes use of cowboy-movie imagery. The song's narrator descends into a small town where an inhabitant tells her that she'll have to leave, and that "this place isn't big enough / For the two of us," only to have her throw his words back at him (obviously she's decided to stay).

After a while, The Good Night undergoes something of a shift in mood; "Proper Time" is stripped-down and gentle, starting out with just an acoustic guitar and Elliott's vocal, then bringing in the bass and drums halfway through. This less-dismal atmosphere continues until "The Bluebird of Happiness", which pitches into abject depression; Elliott doesn't sound as if she thinks she'll ever find the bluebird of the legend.

Victory at Sea have stuck with what works for them: complex rhythms and melodies, evocative lyrics, a curiously uplifting moroseness. Elliott, bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mel Lederman and drummer Carl Eklof are remarkably good at weaving richly dark sonic tapestries embroidered with Elliott's bleak tales. Musically, they continue to grow enough to stave off third-album redundancy; it's obvious that they have a few more stories in them. -- Sarah Zachrich


Indie Workshop

It's hard to give bands a far shake when they remind you of a past great. You end up holding them up to a standard that really isn't fare. Such is the case with the new album by Victory At Sea. (Let's see how long I can go without mentioning the other bands name.)

Victory At Sea kind of shocked me. I had heard the name before, but I never had the chance to hear them until now. I guess I had an idea of some June Of 44' rip off band or something. The name just invokes images of a few guys wishing for Indie Rock greatness. But instead I found a three piece, fronted by a woman, who brought songs thick with emotion to the table. The band has seemingly drenched their songs in a heavy, dark cloud. I hate using the word haunting, just because it is tossed around so much these days, but. that is the best word to describe the feeling of most of these songs. Not so much that the music itself is haunting tough, it feels more like the person writing them is haunted themselves. Mona Elliot seems like a woman who has been made ridged and cynical because of live, writing songs of classic love and loss. But, a problem I have with the band, and Mona specifically, is how much they wear The Geraldine Fibbers influence on their sleeve. Mona's vocal delivery reminds me quite a bit of Carla Bozulich, but not as strong. No slight to Mona though, I mean, who could create moods as strong as Carla with her voice. The music itself carries the Fibbers sound in it as well, although not as prominently. It's not the only influence the band has; don't think that it's just a carbon copy of the Fibbers. They spread their influences all across the indie rock board.

The album is still a strong album, full of highlights. "Mary In June", "The Liar", "A Song For Brian", are all strong tracks. Those three seem to capture the band at it's best; at it's most diverse. The band has a lot of promise, and should be checked out. To be honest the more I listen to it, the more I hear the band for what they are, and less for who they admire.


The Noise

This will be your manifesto if you are the type of person who feels that nobody cares what you are going through, as though your friends have given you up as a lost memory and that you are lost in the love of and the oblivion of death where there is neither clear direction nor unalloyed pain. If you feel there is no prospect whatsoever for you other than the shipwreck of your life's plans, and "After Hours" by the Velvet Underground is your favorite song, then by God (who may or may not exist) this CD is for you. However, if you are not chronically depressed, then the often quasi-poignant cantillations of the lead vocalist might seem ill-matched to the Kafka-esque vignettes presented in these songs. "Proper Time" strikes the right note and is the exception that proves the rule. Even so, as a whole the CD is far greater than the sum of its parts; it's a descent not so much into a maelstrom of blind yet vindictive chaos as a brackish dip into the bitter becalmed latitudes of dashed hopes. (Francis DiMenno)


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