Risks can often pay off if you know what you’re making will grab people in the end. For their new record, The Ophelias take jangly indie pop and constantly throw something new into it arrangement-wise or in their writing to keep you interested and guessing. With even their strings being used in handfuls of different ways across the album, it’s easy to fall in love with this album.
With a chipper spirit, “Fog” sets the album off on an upbeat and frantic pace with drums and vocals hitting surprising sharp notes. As the strings accent this happy but conflicted emotion, the arrangements really flesh out a song that would be fun but less enjoyable without them. “General Electric” accepts faults and tries to improve the self in hope of finding something else, while impressing others. Bells and new keyboards slowly infect the song leaving no verse like the last and seeing the song evolving just as fast as Peppet says they are.
Drums tumble out with a reckless syncopation on “Lover’s Creep” as a sense of longing shines out in the vocals. With harmonies and a constantly bright atmosphere in the harmonies and instrumentation, the song is a joyous and fun track that keeps a few surprises. “Night Signs” however is a much darker track, using its bass and strings to make an ominous and unnerving energy. Though it may feel hard to get into at first, there’s sharp pop and clever melodies hiding throughout the song in unusual ways.
As the angelic rush of “O Command” finally lets loose into growling guitars, the track becomes a frantic and pointed hit of drums and loose guitar lines. Using its strings to constantly dictate the mood of any one section, there’s a kind of conversation within the music that keeps the track lively. “Lunar Rover” shows a much simpler kind of fun folk-pop that is the essence of the Ophelias’ music, while being one of the album’s barest tracks. As a show of what they can make of their layering, the song unfortunately feels a little too straightforward otherwise.
In the rolling stomp of “Bird” The Ophelias use their strings in a very cinematic and evocative way that sounds more like nature than anything inherently musical. This and the melancholy in their story elevate the short track to something quick and poignant. “House” uses percussion in a similarly organic way, as the group’s harmonies make something ghostly out of their troubling story. The harsh and often off-kilter rhythms and hooks they use in the song’s chorus will be pretty divisive, as they create a unique but not altogether catchy emotion.
The strings are pulled around as a complement to the vocals on “Zero” where every piece of the arrangements become one heavy chord, turned bright at a moment’s notice. The song’s sharp focus on feeling from simple changes makes it a truly potent and jarring listen. The jagged instrumentation of “Moon Like Sour Candy” keeps the listen interesting and constantly a little strange, as each verse takes a melody in a new direction. Where they end up too abrasive in other songs, here they create something emotionally stirring while letting listeners dig into their writing.
Words by Owen Maxwell