Music Reviews
Ground Aswim

Sinai Vessel Ground Aswim

(self-released) Rating - 8/10

The absence of friends, lovers, and former band members haunt Caleb Cordes in Ground Aswim, the new album by Sinai Vessel. On the opener alone, a song titled Where Did You Go?, the lead vocalist/songwriter sounds at a loss. Rumbling percussion and guitars anchor the song, but when they drop out and he mutters the song's title, it's an unforgettable moment. For an artist that kicked off  2017’s Brokenlegged with a thundering pop-punk anthem titled Looseleaf, something is obviously different. The influence of Lomelda collaborators Tommy Reed and Andrew Stevens (on production and drumming respectively) is present here, but this is a statement straight from Cordes’ soul. His document of emptiness and uncertainty is one of the most comforting this year.

Recent single Shameplant ideally captures what this album does so well. A steady guitar lead kicks the song off, right before being joined by vocals from Cordes. “Well, I love you with every part of me, save for the part of me that does not,” he starts, singing the final part of the sentence like a deadpan punchline. The start/stop instrumentation of the first chorus clearly calls back to Cordes’ emo influences, but the song is most satisfying under a steady guitar groove and second verse drum beat. He paints a portrait of an offbeat relationship, one that’s blurry until the song’s final chorus clarifies that his insecurities cloud the ability for things to work out. The album’s lead single, Guest in Your Life, continues this narrative of a relationship where things seem fine on a surface level. “Bringing in a shirt or two is hardly moving in,” notes Cordes on the intro, but it only gets worse from there.

The aforementioned emo influence on Shameplant is noticeable, but it also appears on the tense Birdseye and the genuinely depressing Tunneling. On both cuts, guitars chug along in the best way possible. The true highlight, though, is Cordes’ lyrics, where he leans into some melodrama that he succeeds at. The penultimate cut features him pleading with himself to live a better life. If it sounds trite on paper, it’s 100 percent sold when his voice trails off mid-sentence as he sings that “this is no way to live, man, this isn’t healthy.” With Ground Aswim, Cordes made a soundtrack for when everything feels desolate and broken, with a glint of hope that things could be better soon.