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Restless is an apt title for The Ocean Party’s new album. Without ever seeming to be able to put their instruments down to rest, this six-piece have worked their way through six records in just seven years, one of which came out only a matter of months before this LP. Although these haven’t all had as many moments of musical integrity as their current release, the band has been taking baby steps away from the constraints of simplistic dolewave for a while now. This album marks an impressive clamber towards the more expansive indie-pop that they have seemingly been reaching for. It bares richer musical complexity at times, while still retaining a quintessential sound of laziness, a defining feature of TOP that serves as somewhat of a contradiction, considering their inability to do nothing.
The opening title track begins with sunny pop piano that is swiftly joined by a warm pulsing bass line. It’s easy to get caught up in this songs’ breezy momentum right away; it’s reliable, but also drifty and light. Along with its sunniness comes a faint sadness, and as the song progresses this becomes more self-evident.
“I took a lot of time walking home; night already passed me. Houses moving in the morning, you see, the bricks separate themselves climbing outta the door frames. Restless, I get the feeling like I’m losing it. I don’t know where that started… ”
The vocals are thoughtful in sentiment and delivery. The singing, although stronger than many voices in this lead-singer-tag-teaming band, feels fragile. Saxophone enriches the chorus, playing a call and response with the vocal phrasing. This provides a wonderfully timed surge of warmth and feeling, which is enhanced by a catchy pop riff played on electric guitar. These parts are woven through the chorus, which sticks comfortably in your head just like a good pop song should.
Teachers is a two and a half minute suggestion of a song. The guitars are dark and the synths have a Ggth-pop ’80s quality to them, reminiscent of The Cure. The bass chugs along, as it does throughout most of the album. The vocals are particularly rough around the edges. Locked Up is similar in this sense: the vocals are almost speak-sung with a thick Australian accent, shaky and sad. It has a meandering melancholic piano riff, which is played over more churchy ’80s synths.
Both Teachers and Locked Up are examples of TOP’s tendency to have slightly cluttered arrangements. There are moments of overplaying; seemingly aimless melodies that take up the valuable space of stronger parts that are capable of standing alone. The lyrics, however, in their rambling wordiness, are poignant. They carry a lot of depth, even though they can seem thrown away in their delivery. This is a thoroughly enjoyable part of listening to this record. Decent Living, a reflection on trying to find meaning in the mundaneness of rural Australian life, is an example of this:
“Just another country town under a scene that seems infinite / Nothing more to do than what you do for a living / Tapping on the front door thinking no one’s home and no one knows / I waited in the street until the streetlights came on, I watched them all come home / And I saw myself in everyone of them.”
This album has moments of greatness. Some songs require multiple listens to uncover the depth of meaning beyond the simplicity of their sound. Others feel flawed in terms of quality control. Not every song should have made the cut, particularly towards the album’s end. In saying that, this is a band that embraces rawness, pitchy-ness, wordiness, diversity and imperfection. Flawlessness doesn’t really suit The Ocean Party anyway.