At this time of year there are plenty of reasons to be stressed out — there is an essay you haven’t started and finals you haven’t studied for, both in a class you skipped for months. It’s hard to relax and put your mind at ease. If you are looking for a welcome tonic to help escape from drudgery, Calgary’s own Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk’s debut album Over Land and Sea is a wonderfully relaxing and comforting listen. It was recorded in Lakeland, Florida with producer Aaron Marsh, who was previously the lead singer of Copeland and has produced records for bands such as Joshua Michael Robinson and Lydia.
A striking feature of this album is the surprising magnitude of the instrumentation. In contemporary indie music, minimalist recording techniques are in vogue — Over Land and Sea’s powerful, yet subtle arrangement of orchestra, ukulele, organs and a variety of other instruments is a gentle surprise.
On standout tracks like “Fragile” and “Dance With Me,” Mann’s vocals have a haunting beauty that could easily become mainstream-radio hits without sounding disingenuous. The absence of pretension is what makes Mann’s sound so endearing.
On the whole, Over Land and Sea is a rather contemplative and somewhat sleepy album. While Mann’s brand of pop-folk will not be blaring from the civic next to you any time soon, she at times drifts perilously close to a Sarah Mclaughlin-esque adult-contemporary sound with her heavy reliance on ballads. However, the recordings and the song writing are top-notch, and are certainly worth the critical praise this album is sure to garner.