Inlets’ “Inter Arbiter”

“This album is definitely for fans of Sufjan Stevens, Beirut, Iron and Wine and others artists in the indie/folk vein.” -SB

Guest Writer

out of 10

Inter Arbiter
April 20, 2010

There is a childlike innocence to Inter Arbiter. It opens like a well practiced recital piece, played in the echoing confines of a sanctuary—this image is most definitely provoked from my childhood piano practice while my mother set up communion on Sunday mornings. I could tell I was going to like Inter Arbiter just by the first track title and the crackles and static laced piano that opened the album.

Sebastian Krueger is Inlets, and his voice comes fully slipping along in the second song “Canteen,” sounding reminiscently like he stole a little vocal DNA from Rufus Wainwright and Brandon Boyd (Incubus). It’s the kind of song that easily ensnares you and helps capture the listener into the welcome trap of a good album. It winds about my mind and I feel as if I’ve been infused with a concoction of ice and cedar, blended at just the right temperature to make Krueger’s voice sound best.

Hum inducing piano and hip swaying drums guide the listener throughout the album. “In Which, I, Robert” is a deceptively simple, toe-tapping piece, jazzy in its bass and by far my favorite song on the album. It leads into the somber, echoing “Great Exit Lights” followed by “Bright Orange Air,” a song that has already gotten excellent reviews on its own.

Krueger is the kind of singer/songwriter that you itch to compare with others, but find is so much his own that the comparisons fall short. Connecting strings fray before you can even finish drawing the connection. Yes, the wintry, crisp swirl of his melodies bring forth images of other singer/songwriters, but they stand so fully on their own that you can’t quite place just what you’re reminded of. The slow waiver of Krueger’s voice, bending and wrapping around the words slipping from his lips and his use of baby pianos and miscellaneous layered instruments, beckons the mind to think of other indie folk artists, but through it all, Krueger remains himself.

At first I couldn’t decide if this made his album better or worse for me. Was I enjoying Inlets because it reminded me of other music I love? Or was I enjoying Inlets because of Krueger’s dazzling compositions and heady voice? I was torn. After two or three listens to Inter Arbiter, I still couldn’t help but think of Brandon Boyd. And while Krueger’s talents, both vocal and instrumental, are truly awesome, I couldn’t help thinking that Austin Lucas picks that banjo better, Rufus Wainwright carved the nook in that chord with a throatier warble, Sufjan’s compositions held just a little more meat.

But by the fifth, the sixth, the seventh listen, I’ve become addicted to Inter Arbiter, to Inlets and Krueger’s voice. I’ve learned to separate Inlets from those that have come before it, from the inspirations and the influences. I find myself humming “Bright Orange Air “during the day, and singing “In Which, I, Robert” as I get ready for work in the morning. Krueger has taken what he likes from music and shaped it to his whim, crafting songs both original and reminiscent. He’ll attract listeners of others artists of a similar vein, then make them into his own loyal fans with his carefully perfected lyrics and melodies.

This album is definitely for fans of Sufjan Stevens, Beirut, Iron and Wine and others artists in the indie/folk vein. (Beirut’s Zachary Condon, a friend of Krueger’s, actually worked on the album.) It’s a rich, layered and interesting album, but I do suggest several listens to fully get into it and start truly appreciating the album for itself and not “just another indie/folk album.” Inter Arbiter stands firmly on its on two feet and I look forward to more from Inlets. I think it will be a great winter album–heck, it’s already making me crave a chilled walk through a city bigger than my own. Krueger’s songs start with fresh, earthy roots and blend in the perfect amount of reverb, echo, and digital additions to add a metropolitan feel. It’s a mix of nature and man as structurally fascinating as Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright. I highly recommend the album and am glad for its addition to my collection.

–Sarah Bates, July 6, 2010