Belly Up Tavern, Sunday, November 18, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $6.
There are now more bands with the word "wolf" in their name touring North America than there are actual wolves in the wild. But Los Angeles band Sea Wolf proves they're worth making room for one more.
Singer-songwriter Alex Brown Church started Sea Wolf as an avenue for songs that didn't fit in with the '60s-flavored guitar pop of his other band, Irving. I always liked Irving's songs but felt that none of the band's three singers was distinctive. Sea Wolf has made me revise that assessment; Church's half-murmured voice sounds great in this context. A more flashy singer would distract from quiet numbers like "Ses Monuments" from the EP Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low. The song goes by at a fairly brisk pace, but the drums are restrained, and you can hear lovely little details in the arrangement: a sweet guitar part, a little bit of strings, even something that sounds like an '80s Casio.
Which brings up another thing I like about Sea Wolf: While Church's mellow sounds fit in pretty well next to those of many of the bearded, sensitive, hippie-ish guys of today's indie rock, he doesn't sound too precious about what instruments he uses or what effect he wants to go for. He sings about gypsies and mysteries in "You're a Wolf," but at no point does he seem in danger of writing a rock opera about fairies. The songs are the stars here, not the image. And, yes, Sea Wolf does have a song called "You're a Wolf." They also use their MySpace page to list almost 30 other bands with "wolf" in their name.
SEA WOLF, Belly Up Tavern, Sunday, November 18, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $6.