Inlets is the moniker under which Sebastian Krueger plays music. It is essentially a one-man musical project, but one listen to the debut Inlets album “Inter Arbiter” and you’ll most definitely think otherwise. It is a densely composed and beautiful record with multiple layers that makes you honestly believe a full band recorded it. Of course, Krueger did have some help, most notably from friends like Zach Condon of Beirut and Angel Deradoorian of Dirty Projectors, among others. He’s got friends in high places. Of course the free EP he released back in 2006 earned him a whole bunch of blog love, and I bet also gained him those aforementioned musician friends. He’s a guy who’s been around the block a few times, and now with “Inter Arbiter” is poised to take over the world with his music.
It may have taken 4 years time to write and record “Inter Arbiter,” insomuch as that was when the last Inlets music was released, but I like to think all that time was most definitely worth it. I have no real idea how much production and instruments are layered all over this album, but it sounds like a whole lot. That can work to an artist’s advantage or disadvantage mighty quick, and I’m very happy to say this is one of the better times when more actually sounds better. Now Inlets aren’t going to revolutionize music in that the sound isn’t something mindblowing you’ve never heard before, rather he takes a classic pastoral folk sound and gets notice for the overall strength of the songs. Lyrically this is a very rich album, but the lush instrumentation, which covers so much ground, makes for something immensely gorgeous and compelling. There are also plenty of vocal harmonies a-la Fleet Foxes, which does make me wonder if, as a “solo” project, if Krueger recorded multiple vocal tracks and composed his own harmonies, or if he had friends add their pipes to the track. Perhaps the biggest modern-day comparison I can make in relation to Inlets is that this record sounds a whole lot like Midlake. Here’s the deal with that though – the latest Midlake album “The Courage of Others” received largely poor reviews, despite my general liking of it. How Inlets succeeds massively where fault was found with Midlake is largely production and lyrics-based in that Krueger is a stronger writer and composer. Well, that’s probably only true in discussing the last Midlake album. The one before it, “The Trials of Van Occupanther,” can be called one of the better folk albums of the last decade, and that’s actually close to on par with how great Inlets’ “Inter Arbiter” sounds.
The one small issue I have with “Inter Arbiter” is that after awhile it starts to feel a little same-y. Yes it’s glorious woodland folk, and it often feels like each successive track is more beautiful than the last, but asking me to select particular album highlights or even to give you the general feel of certain songs leaves me scratching my head. Okay, that’s not completely true, especially when you’ve got one of the more commercially viable songs on the album, “In Which I, Robert” available for download below. But asking me to pick the next single or to give you the finer details of an album like this is more challenging than I thought it would be, and I’ll call that a strike against it. Still, it didn’t stop my enjoyment of “Inter Arbiter”, and I hope it doesn’t stop your enjoyment of it either. This is a record very much worth your time and attention, and Sebastian Krueger has proven himself once again a talent to keep a close eye on. Let’s just hope that it takes him less than 4 years to come up with a follow-up that’s equally as strong.