by Noah Cain
The opening track and lead single of Songs from The Secret Beach by The Secret Beach is called “The Secret Beach.” So, what (and who and where) is The Secret Beach? If this were a murder mystery, “Micah Erenberg in the Interlake with the Tascam 388 Recording Console” would be an accurate, albeit inadequate answer. The Secret Beach contains multitudes. It is the evening behind the wind and a cat pawing at static on a TV screen. It is looking for a way out while knowing it needs to be there to be the one for everybody it will become. It is Existential Interlake Psych-Surf.
Rather than seeking detached perfection in the album’s production, Erenberg’s analog approach has given Songs from The Secret Beach a raw presence and intimacy reminiscent of The Band’s recordings at Big Pink. At various points (most powerfully on “God is…”), my attention was drawn to the act of recording, the specificity of the moments in time that Erenberg has captured on this album. A screen door swings shut, fingers squeak on strings, objects move about the room.
Above this sonic landscape, Erenberg’s lyrics float like clouds. They are precise (“you know the edges of every broken plan”), sweet (“like a bee loves honey, a tree loves rain, I miss you again”), funny (“God eats a paella some cool kid made all wrong”) and profound (“hard days, bad ways, I have always been the same”). Operating from a posture of intense acceptance and sincerity, Erenberg dwells in tension and uncertainty, rejecting worn-out dichotomies and materialistic solutions to the questions of death, love and livelihood. The questions that Erenberg asks on Songs from The Secret Beach don’t require answers. They require contemplation. It is fitting, then, that the album’s final track, “How Many Times,” is composed entirely of questions.
Even as it explores weighty topics—the no-win bargains of our economic present (“Get a job, oops, too bad, that didn’t work”), grieving in the wake of death and heartbreak (“it don’t make sense when good friends die so young”), and hidden mental health issues (“I become manic though I appear serene”)—this album never feels bogged down in negativity or naval gazing. There is a great sense of wonder and appreciation for these mysteries and suggestions of hopeful ways forward through openness, mindfulness, and, most of all, “Less talk, a lot more rock and roll.”