The sea and moon. These are two stalwart subjects for songwriters and poets since time immemorial. There are endless variations on their musings. As natural features go, our connection to the ocean and moon run deep into antiquity and before. It is little wonder these subjects persist in our art through present day. Box of Moxie’s “Bounty from the Seas” is a paean in some ways. The respect and love songwriter Stephen Jacque has for the ocean shines through with each listen. “Bounty from the Seas” takes those lacking respect for the seas to task throughout the track’s lyrics, but the attitude is never aggressive or strident.
The song has a gentle stride however. Box of Moxie It’s a performance tying a number of sounds over the course of three minutes thirty three seconds – the relentless acoustic guitar, uncluttered and spot on drumming, and strings. Other elements bring color to the song as well. Jacques strikes the right tempo for the performance – “Bounty from the Seas” sounds like a centerpiece tune in the context of the larger album release Salt Water Magic and the pace is an important reason why. It carries gravitas without sounding staid or inert.
The targeted poetry of the song’s lyrics are a hallmark of Jacques’ songwriting. Experience and innate talent guide his style towards a minimalist approach wholly appropriate for his songwriting; the old Miles Davis dictum that it’s the notes you don’t play that matter the most is applicable to lyric writing as well. He’s a disciplined writer through and through and “Bounty from the Seas”, nominally about another subject, ends up being more about the author in some ways. The effect is likely unintentional, but perhaps not and impressive nonetheless.
His voice on this song may be an acquired taste for some. He never over-emotes and uses a limited range for this song, but there’s immense sensitivity in his delivery and he takes obvious care with his phrasing. He senses the song’s dramatic possibilities thanks to the marriage of music and lyric and exploits them in understated fashion. Jacques is a vocalist always striving to dovetail his sound into the band’s wavelength and his efforts to do so are successful here. The recording captures the humanity of his voice and it helps make the song all the more memorable.
“Bounty from the Seas” is a great choice for a single. It’s accessible for a broad-based audience yet illustrates the adult nature and themes of Box of Moxie’s music. The single likewise shows how Stephen Jacques’ songwriting, some years into his songwriting life, is still engaging the world and asking hard questions. The poet Shelley once said poets were the world’s unacknowledged legislators. This is the magic of art rather than disposable pop music that says nothing substantive. I think songwriters are as well and Jacques brings an elevated sensibility to “Bounty from the Seas” and other songs included on Box of Moxie’s latest album Salt Water Magic realize that idea and hold up under repeated listens.