Sound — 7
Brandon Boyd began working with Brendan O'Brien for the past several Incubus albums and once Incubus went on hiatus they decided they wanted to continue working with each other, only this time in a genre new to Brandon Boyd. Their demos for the songs were initially constructed using their iPhones and sent back and forth until their ideas crystalized enough to go into the studio. Brandon Boyd wrote the lyrics and performed vocals while Brendan O'Brien did pretty much everything else, except drums were handled by Josh Freese. What you have at the end of the day is basically a solo pop album by Brandon Boyd with strong collaborations with Brendan O'Brien. Instead of giving a song by song summary, I'm going to try to do something a little different and provide an idea of what to expect from the album with some comments on a few of the tracks. Musically, there is nothing super adventurous about the album, but at times there is almost a jazzy feel to several of the songs that I think will turn off your average pop music fan. The album does include your standard rock instruments and a few small attempts to reach out to Incubus fans, but I believe at the end of the day the album won't quite be aesthetically accessible to most Incubus fans, either. There will, of course, be those hard-core Incubus fans who will buy the album regardless (and possibly attack my review in the comments) but primarily the success of Sons Of The Sea is going to require that new fans hear this music that aren't necessarily Incubus or "pop music" fans. "Jet Black Crow" is one of the more interesting songs from the album, and one that seems to try to reach out to Incubus fans. There is a simple but intriguing riff in the intro but too swiftly the song turns into tambourine and a strummed acoustic being the meat of the song. "Come Together" will probably be the most accessible track for pop music fans, and surprisingly Brandon is actually singing to "baby girl" in this track. "Lady Black" put me off almost immediately because of the vocal processing, but the song is at least narrative with the lyrics so it gets you listening to hear the story. "Space and Time" is another song that seems to be trying to reach out to Incubus fans and pop music fans at the same time, and I think in the end will speak to neither. "Where All the Songs Come From" seems to really be mixing in some jazz elements too heavily to appeal to your average pop music fan. I want to be careful how I say this - there is nothing wrong with pop music or being a fan of pop music, but it is called pop music because it is so easily accessible to casual listeners. This means pop music should use standard chord progressions, melodies and harmonies. Sons Of The Sea's music is a little too "smart" for pop music, and by that I mean they were a little too musically adventurous – but there is definitely still a fan base out there.
Lyrics — 8
Brandon Boyd is an excellent vocalist and songwriter, being one of the primary reasons that Incubus was able to be signed in the first place and were (for a time) a very popular band internationally. Brandon's vocals still stand out, and the dude definitely has the talent. In the context of what they're doing on this album, his vocal performance is superb. I was not impressed with all the vocal processing and effects used. The actual lyrics I have a hard time with – I think some of them are great, but the ones I don't think are great seem horrible. I could have lived my whole life without hearing Brandon Boyd sing to "baby girl." As a sample of the lyrics, some from the track "Jet Black Crow": "Only imagine what you must think of me/ after all these elves in violence/ a flip of the coin and I'm both sides/ I’m around you/ it's a lot like a lullaby/ I'm around you/ somebody murdered your jet black crow." Okay, I don't think he actually is singing "elves in violence" and I'm not really sure what he said there. But the song would have been better if he said "elves in violence." Honestly though, Brandon Boyd is an exceptional vocalist.
Overall Impression — 6
I'm not trying to knock Brandon Boyd's project, but at the end of several listens I'm not really sure what he was trying to accomplish. In interviews both Brandon Boyd and Brendan O'Brien have described this album as a standard pop music outing, but that isn't how I would describe it. While there were a few songs that were very listenable, they were countered by songs I couldn't enjoy at all. I think this will definitely appeal to some people, but at the end of the day I'm not one of them.