THE ONLY OCEAN dubs themselves as atmospheric rock, which I’m not sure what that entirely means, although if going by definition to describe this genre, I would say this might give a new listener a one-sided view or clue to what the band sounds like. Whew! Pretty sure that is a run on sentence right there folks or at the least an opener that might (or might not) grab your attention. And if it does, well THE ONLY OCEAN has done a great job in using “atmospheric rock” as their genre. For me though, and y’all know how special I am when it comes to genres and bands sometimes painting themselves in a corner trying to distinguish themselves by genre. So, in reviewing this band let’s see if they do that or if my old school thought process needs to be brought a little more current when it comes to bands categorizing themselves with a lesser-known sub genre or one that they’ve entirely created for the sake of their music.
K, I’ll be honest here – I’ve not heard of “atmospheric rock”. Is that really a thing? Are there bands that classify themselves as such? Could I need a course in current culture to bring my old ass up to speed? To answer these questions, I need to do tad bit of digging on this. I’ll be right back – but seeing how you won’t completely know that I’m away from the page, I guess you can keep reading…odd thing about writing and wanting the reader to be right with you during the whole process, huh? *Time travelling sequence begins now * Well, I’ve returned with some interesting news. Not that I disbelieved “atmospheric rock” was not a true genre of music, but since I’ve never heard of such a thing, I was skeptical I will say that. Atmospheric Rock is a sub-genre falling from the Post Rock bracket and included within this bucket are ambient rock, space rock, prog rock, math rock, etc. Post Rock can best be described as bands using key instruments in atypical ways to create a song, like a guitar used to create timbre and textures so says the definition. I see. Well, in that case my Pretties, THE ONLY OCEAN does do this with their music, or this is achieved with the offerings of the music on “GOOD MORNING”.
Now that’s settled, let’s get into the meat of the 8 track EP. Shall we? And don’t roll your eyes and think “I literally just wasted the time it took (maybe 20 seconds) to read the two paragraphs above for this lady to work out a band’s genre and it being correct for them”. Look smarties, those that thought that anyway; there is a reason for my bantering. Always a reason and you’re going to have to wait to find out why. Ya, that means you’ll have to keep reading or you can choose to click off this article right now if you don’t really care. And that’s cool, truly. But you won’t know my full review of THE ONLY OCEAN. So if you wanna know what I thought about this atmospheric rock band from California then STFU and continue reading, k?
What makes this beefed up EP of supersonic, finger snappy, shoulder shaker tunes stand out? Entwined in the songs are the simple sounds that we are familiar with in which THE ONLY OCEAN uses in complexities that break out or breaks down, however you wanna look at it; the everyday murmurs and hums of human life. If you could take a slice of how humans live or survive out of a huge, all encompassing, pressed pie of the human experience; these 8 tracks are what it might sound like at any given moment.
Like “STILL YOU WON’T” takes a grinding approach to pleading and bargaining with one’s self and others to squeals and tempos that mimic an observation of what a person thinks of someone else’s choice or choices.
“SLOWLY CHANGING” has a chorus that echoes between tinny guitars that have guzzled a 6 hour energy drink and literally starts to massage the ordinary out of your squishy mind wearing spiked turf shoes.
“BABY” as a noun, personifies the female, a pet name, a phase of life as a beginning; these little adorations we replace the person with a word, this song scratches the purpose of why someone left or will leave on a wooden surface for someone to see (and understand) later.
Here’s where I thought the term “atmospheric” came from in describing the music of THE ONLY OCEAN. “HOLD ON ME” is airy and haunting. Like the song title the tempo is felt in the pulse of the afflicted while the guitars give into the chaos of the melody while the vocal, like on all of the tracks, tickles and taunts on purpose. WESLEY HILL is phenomenal in bringing the lyrics to the center of my brain while I allow the music to fill up the holes in the background to prevent me from losing track or drifting away from what I’m supposed to hear.
The title track “GOOD MORNING” soars over the horizon with a sunrise, just as you might think it would and right as that first beam of light hits your eyes, you know there’s a new day. It’s burning into your eyes and whatever good or bad has happened or is yet to happen, just for that instant it is a GOOD MORNING.
Just like I would describe a song playing in a dream sequence, “ALL THE THINGS THEY WANT” is choppy and memorable. A song that could easily be attributed to something that is out of reach; temporarily.
“LEECHES” has a bass line that rocks amongst a macabre of sporadic thoughts that have morphed into music. Especially those loud AF thoughts that clang and bang out feelings about the parts of life that simply put, suck.
“FAKE SUNFLOWERS” kaleidoscope the waves of happiness as one might see while influenced by something else. This song zooms out on a huge field of sunflowers seeing the beauty from afar and then zooms right back in to pinpoint the one dead flower out of gazillions.
Like their bio talks about, the boys in THE ONLY OCEAN are as comfortable making music together because they’ve been friends since 7th grade. And while they used getting comfortable in the locker room in 7th grade gym class as a metaphor for a coming of age and coming into their own, parallel to that were the girls in the next locker room over giggling, sniffing liquid paper and sipping on vodka brought from their parent’s liquor cabinet at home, dreaming of what it would be like as grown ups with the boys in the next room over.
Fast forward to this record and poof like magic you have the energy of the beginnings of life all rolled into one record. “GOOD MORNING” sets it to music; the pureness, the random and sweetly unforgiving, the loud, chaotic but with purpose sounds of life. Fluid and strong. THE ONLY OCEAN has an insane ability to take the actions of humans and set them to music. And while these are their own personal accounts, as a listener I can fully relate to missing someone, hating someone, seeing something for the first time, seeing it again with a different perspective, loving and coveting things as my own only to find out they’re not mine, and anything else that can be drawn out from where we sit as we reflect. THE ONLY OCEAN does this brilliantly on “GOOD MORNING”.
Now, I don’t know if this will ever be repeated by me again with respect to the categorizing of a band. However obscure the name of this sub-genre is, atmospheric rock defines this band to a T. Not only with the structural aspects of what they’re playing but with where their perspective is coming from; high above looking down on what they see as their lives and experiences. It is fantastic that this band and their new record has given me a new perspective about the reasoning in classifying the music of a band. And I might be late to the table here, but I see the importance of some of these categories where I did not before. And feel free to remind me if by some chance I do go off on a tangent in the future about genres and subgenres being this unimportant or that way a label or a band tries to classify themselves as something totally unique; however I rant about it. You have my permission to stop me and call me out…
And for those of you that continued to read after the beginning two paragraphs, congrats. You get a ribbon! You understand why now, right? Ya, there’s always a reason or a purpose to my scribblings…
Til Next Time –
All The Things They Want
Still You Won’t
Hold On Me