Bermuda Waterfall is Sean Nicholas Savage’s most earnest record to date. The Edmontonian, who has released a ridiculous ten albums previously since 2008, has never stayed in any particular groove—instead, the beauty to Savage’s creative process is his ability to record a passing whim. Known in the past to float around spoken word, country, and punk, Bermuda Waterfall veers off on another tangent: it is undeniably a to-the-bone pop record, celebrating everything smooth and lush of the ’60s and ’70s.
For this, his 11th album, Savage has crafted a careful, if not particularly poignant, call-back to old soul, jazz, and R&B records of yesteryear. Everything, from the hazy golden album cover to the smoke-filled chorus of standout track “Empire”, oozes with that tropical tiki-bar lounge music glow. In the context of any other pop artist, Bermuda Waterfall would be seen as a tongue-in-cheek joke, an exploration of a bygone style by a musician momentarily bored of writing contemporary song structures. In the context of Savage’s stream-of-consciousness record releases, however, the album finds legitimate grounds on which to stretch its legs. It’s thanks in large part to the complete lack of irony that Bermuda Waterfall doesn’t come off as cheesy, even when some elements—like the absolutely sparkling drum machine or chirpy melody on “Some Things Never Die”—threaten to break the illusion.
Bermuda Waterfall doesn’t tread any ground that hasn’t already been stomped over by countless others—in this generation or previous ones. The sparse instrumentals and ’80s drum throwbacks borrow much from The xx’s particular production palette, and Savage’s Kaputt-era Dan Bejar impression runs the span of the album. There are a few instrumental inconsistencies here as well, like the shrill and plinky piano lines on “Darkness” and some piercing drum clacks on “Naturally”—and did we really need an Ennio Morricone-referencing instrumental piece in intro track “Boogie Nights”? That this is album seven for Sean Nicholas Savage this decade does leave its mark in subtle ways throughout the production.
It’s hard to place Bermuda Waterfall in the ever-expanding universe of Savage’s musical repertoire. Hardcore fans have to be flexible enough at this point in his career to take what they’re dealt, but the record makes the most sense to those enjoying Savage’s sincerity for the first time. As far as rabbit holes go, Bermuda Waterfall is one of the more interesting starting points for a new listener to get sucked into an artist’s body of work, and even if the rest of his discography ends up not playing nice against this record’s lush backdrop, it will still stand out as a soundtrack to night-life get-togethers and quiet, rainy nights spent indoors with a bottle of red.