Oceans Will Rise
Arts & Crafts
Global warming is a slow and potentially painful process. The Stills, not unlike many other bands, are interested exploring this dire concept through music—unfortunately Oceans Will Rise embodies this process all too literally.
Oceans Will Rise slugs along with its over-produced dreariness, leaving the listener in the cold. Disinterested vocals and repetitive lyrics combine with layers of guitars and keyboard to make what is essentially background music. “Being Here” comes close to lightening and warming up the otherwise aloof set of tracks. It’s an honest rock song that makes use of echo-y vocals and sentimental guitar riffs in order to play up its nostalgia. The Stills need to admit they’re at their best when they’re straight up lamenting coming-of-age stories and girls. It’s cheesy but at least it’s not cheesy and heavy-handedly concerned for the earth.
The opener “Don’t Talk Down” boasts drawn-out lines like “You’re [sic] head is moving side to side / Our temperatures rise / I hear the devil outside.” To complement the bleary and far-away vocals, there’s a hint of Doors-ish organs that break up the unexceptional guitar work. It seems as though the album is focused on throwing too many layers on top of each other without focusing on the basic quality of the lyrics and melody.
With a booming and invasive bass line, “Snakecharming the Masses” sounds sinister for the first few bars until the motif is repeated ad nauseum without building or expanding, which effectively damages the mystique created in the first few moments.
Overall, the disc isn’t entirely offensive. It is, perhaps, radio-friendly but for all its efforts to cover new ground, the album is remarkably bland and confirms Hamelin’s cry, “Everything I build is breaking down.”
There’s a rumour going around that indie rock is undergoing a renaissance. A folk revival, if you will. If this movement had a leader it would be Fleet Foxes. Fearlessly singing perfect harmony, Fleet Foxes released their first album to thousands of eager listeners who have embraced the band and their efforts to make music that sounds like a hybrid of many different genres—perhaps creating one all their own.
Fleet Foxes is five guys—Robin Pecknold, Skye Skjelset, J. Tillman, Casey Wescott and Christian Wargo—from Seattle, which would explain their long hair and flannel shirts, but it doesn’t seem to explain why, at times, their music sounds like it’s being sung by some unnamed parishioners in the Southern United States, roughly 50 years ago. Like another group of five guys who were making music that sounded much more Southern than their birthplace, Fleet Foxes would appear to be this generation’s version of The Band.
The 11 songs on the record paint mostly images of pastoral scenes with a narrative voice that sounds like some mythological woodland creature.
“Ragged Wood” opens with the melancholic plea “Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long/ The spring is upon us, follow my only song/ Settle down with me by the fire of my yearning/You should come back home, back on your own now,” against a shuffling shaker-and-tambourine rhythm, switching between Robin Pecknold’s lead vocals and the band’s harmonies after each verse. There’s a change of tempo throughout the song, and a series of rises and falls that make the song enjoyable and interesting to listen to over and over again. Each song is as unique and as innovative as this one and, although the words may seem a little pastoral for some people’s liking, they are not foreign but surprisingly relatable.
“Heard Them Stirring” is an instrumental-heavy piece and yet the vocals create a mood all their own—we don’t need any lyrics to tell us what’s going on. Layered with swirling melodies, tones of organs, bells, strings and a healthy serving of that Seattle reverb we all love makes this record as musically complex as it is vocally intriguing.
The record ends with the almost acapella and very sparse song “Oliver James.” Pecknold’s vocals are completely bare and he lets every last word linger. Fleet Foxes hold on to every last bar, every last word. They don’t want it to be over and neither will you.
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