For such a vocal album, A Wrecking has a notable lack of traditional songwriting. After three slow-building tracks, each of which could serve as a standalone intro, "Take A Life" finally applies a verse-chorus-verse structure to its downcast passages. It works well for Snow Ghosts' dark, electronic chamber-pop and the enchanting voice of Hannah Cartwright (AKA Augustus Ghost)—so well, in fact, that it makes the songwriting elsewhere on the album feel insubstantial. "On Knives" and "The Wreck," for instance, sound like overblown interludes next to "The Fleet" and its more deliberate stanzas. The sequence of "Lament," "Bowline" and "Drought" is A Wrecking's strongest run, but it makes the two wispy closing tracks feel anticlimactic by comparison.
The uneven tracklist may stem from A Wrecking's central theme, which is said to be literal and figurative "wrecks" in life. As such, just about every title and image on the record is nautical, and Cartwright sings about death, destruction and emotional loss with plenty of seafaring references. So perhaps Snow Ghosts envision A Wrecking as a cold, stormy pop album in shambles, having been deconstructed by nature's elements and rebuilt by their careful hands. It's not a bad conceit, and could have worked well had it been executed with tact and subtlety, not to mention more fully realized songs.
There are redeeming elements here. Production flourishes from Ross Tones (AKA Throwing Snow) and unique recording locations around the southern coast of England lend A Wrecking an old, weathered quality. Cartwright sings her deeply romantic poetry with conviction and control, even amidst detuned piano chords ("Held The Light", "Angry Seas") and squalls of seasick electronics ("Circles Out Of Salt", "On Knives"). The atmosphere of the album is consistent and effective, thanks in part to the concept at its core. But too often on A Wrecking, Snow Ghosts sacrifice memorable songwriting for loose metaphors and theatrics.