Sea Lemon‘s sophomore EP, Stop At Nothing, out today via Luminelle, shows how far the Seattle singer-songwriter has come, and all of the places she has yet to go.
Natalie Lew, better known as Sea Lemon, has had a circuitous route to music. Though she’s always been a fan, she only started putting out her own releases recently, effectively logging out of Spotify and stepping into the studio. The Seattle native grew up in an area rife with musical influences, gathering early inspiration from the iconic KEXP station to the influential Capitol Hill Block Party. That said, her own debut record, Close Up, was just released in 2022. She is a member of the COVID class of musicians who came out of the shadows as the world shut down, a time that allowed some to explore and record while stuck at home.
Close Up caught the attention of iconic label Luminelle Recordings. Armed with a powerful team and a newfound confidence, Lew has just released her sophomore EP, Stop At Nothing. The new record builds upon the stellar sound Lew shared in her first project while also showing a rawer, deeper side of her artistry through her incredible lyrics and buttressed by producorial choices by Jackson Phillips of Day Wave.
It’s hard to categorize Lew‘s music. In a statement, she describes her sound as “Costco Cocteau Twins,” which is both incredibly apt and obviously hilarious. The catchy, saccharine “3A” features twinkly guitar and a buzzy, irresistibly poppy chorus. “Breakdown” ricochets us into zoned out, Washed Out-like territory. Other songs slingshot from lo-fi garage rock, to true shoegaze, to synth pop, and back again. While the EP contains multiple personalities, it’s anything but schizophrenic. With music listeners often preferring playlists over deep listens of a single album, an eclectic choice of moods, sounds, and vibes is a wise choice from an up-and-coming artist like Sea Lemon.
Diving into Lew‘s sparse yet evocative lyrics, the theme that most powerfully comes through on Stop At Nothing is a sense of longing. On “3A,” she sings, “Listen, he’s still just a no one / They turn into someone / Quicker than I’d like / Missing you more than a minute / I swear I’ll stay in it / A fighter on a flight in candlelight.” Though Lew doesn’t given insight into the inspiration for this song, it feels likely that the singer-songwriter is tapping into the ways in which we self-sooth after a relationship ends. They were really no one, right? Lew asks what happens when that turns out to be a lie, when the object of your desire evolves into a notable person.
This sense of missing someone bleeds into “Breakdown,” where Lew laments, “I’ll stop at nothing for you / Lean on your older sister / Stay until you’re overworked you knew / I’d wait around / Yeah I’ll keep sticking with you until you’re mine.” Drawing inspiration from famously spurred singer-songwriters like Phoebe Bridgers, Sea Lemon explores what it means to stay in a relationship even though it is obviously unhealthy. Furthermore, on closing track “Dramatic,” Sea Lemon‘s fascination with technology and parasocial relationships comes to a head, as she explains, “Plan a vacation to another country / Saw you were there maybe a month ago / Land into town I doubt it ever hits me / Get in the pool, it’s just like that episode.” Throughout Stop At Nothing, Lew tempers her fascination with the subject of her song. As she explains in “Dramatic,” “I only know you just in passing.” Lew loves deeply, but at a distance. The way she describes this dynamic is extremely personal and intensely relatable.
More than anything, Sea Lemon is most skillful when she’s putting words to common fears and anxieties. This comes through most prominently in highlight “Vaporized.” Lew sings, “Sometimes when I struggle to sleep I / Look up the news / See someone was caught in a landslide.” She continues, further expounding on this horrible scenario, “Ripped them in two / And I toss and I turn and I’m scared / Yeah I won’t lie / It sticks with you / Try hard to remember I’m happy / Yeah I’m trying to.” It’s often difficult to confront, but this world can feel incredibly dark, fatalistic, and horrible. Sometimes it seems that our deepest relationships are with the dark screen in front of us. In many ways, she is positioning herself to become a voice of a generation, as she’s shown that she’s unafraid to describe the paranoid thoughts and feelings that permeate every corner of our troubling times. And yet, she does it with a peppy beat, with an unforgettable guitar riff, with a zonked-out production style. Stop At Nothing is a hell of a record, and Sea Lemon is just getting started. Take a gander at the link below to check out the full album. Claire Greising