Oh Wonder - 'Ultralife' Album Review by bradley p.
The latest piece from Sonically Awkward Contributor bradley p. is on Oh Wonder's latest album 'Ultralife' - check out his thoughts on the album below, and be sure to dig into it for yourself with the links at the end of the post. Enjoy!
Ultralife – Oh Wonder
With the release of their second full-length studio album Ultralife, indie alt-pop group Oh Wonder has continued their upward rise. Based in London, Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West started this duo by releasing one single a month for a year, which culminated with their debut self-titled album in September 2015. That record charted in the top 30 in both the U.K. and Canada, and top 80 in the US. One of the most unique aspects of their music is that both Josephine and Anthony sing nearly every lyric together. A great way to describe their music would be crisp production with laid back vibes.
With Ultralife, we see more of the same production, vibes, intriguing song writing, all with very slight deviation on the dual melody. There are times throughout where one singer will take the lyrics solo. The themes are also pretty heavy and expansive on this album. Some include: needing to be alone and recharge after being with people, telling someone they’re full of themselves, climate change, being energized by getting to know strangers, missing friends and family when they’re on tour, and of course, love.
So what exactly is “Ultralife”? According to an interview that Josephine did at Boston Calling Music Festival: “I guess that song, and the album indeed, is about finding someone or something that makes you feel ultra, that makes your life extraordinary in some small or massive way. Whatever that is, whoever that is, it’s important to find it because God knows that humans go through a load of rubbish. A lot of the time we need things to pull us out of those dark moments.”
Though most of the songs have that summer time, relax on the porch vibe, a few in particular stood out to me. ‘Ultralife’, the title track, starts out with a flurry of energy as the first thing you hear is the duos’ voices and an upbeat piano. Lyrically this song personifies the album theme as title tracks should: “I got so much soul inside my bones / Take a look at me now / I’m young, forever in the sun / Ever since you came, I’m living Ultralife”.
‘Lifetimes’ is a song about climate change. Regardless of your stance on the issue, the production can not be ignored. Those familiar with Jack Garratt will be sure to appreciate this one, with humming synths, beat-defining drums, a mini-guitar solo, and a very rhythmic piano throughout.
‘All About You’ is your obligatory love ballad. Musically it’s nothing special compared to the rest of the album. A simple piano is the dominant instrument throughout, but builds to a much larger sound later with layers of a beat-pad and finger snaps. When the focus is instead shifted on lyrics, this might be the strongest on the record. The theme revolves around surrendering to love regardless of how much you don’t think it’s true, or how much you want to fight it internally. They sing: “And now my heart skips heavy underneath the waves / We are done, we are gone / ’Cause this is already bigger / This is already bigger than love / This is already bigger / This is already bigger than us”. This song also beautifully exemplifies what they tried to accomplish with the entire theme of Ultralife.
Overall this record will certainly not disappoint the old Oh Wonder fans and no doubt bring new followers to their already impressive fan base. Their production, once again, is right on the money and their voices will make even the summer time cicadas stop hissing to steal a listen. Do yourself a favor this summer and grab your favorite headphones, chair, and drink, and head outside and relax to this gem of an album.