Ought are one of the few bands around right now that are able to evolve in subtle ways without feeling like they’re just making the same record over and over again. Though their latest release isn’t breaking a ton of new ground, there’s so many steps being made within their core sound that you’ll be stretched to find anything bad to say.
The slow-beating intro of “Into The Sea” quickly shifts to a wallop of drums and guitar, that gives the song an unnerving pace. The sense of momentum the band throws behind every chorus is exhilarating and their fearless riffing in between is raw fury. “Disgraced In America” runs with sunny energy to hide the displeased tones of the lyrics. The band’s seamless transition between the more slick electronica side of the album hits hard here, as they not only switch gears but blend sounds menacingly.
“Disaffection” shreds bass with a relentless sense of purpose, as Tim Darcy seems to relinquish control to the song’s subject. Although Darcy’s rotating enunciation can be disorientating in some cases, he manages to enhance the varying energies of each section rather than contrast them here. The cold and smooth sounds of “These 3 Things” are odd but intriguing as Darcy takes listeners through a surreal journey of realization. Despite the much more stripped sound of the song, the rare touches of instruments like strings and bells cut through sharply to make the song feel like a unique piece in the band’s discography.
There’s a lovely morning quality to “Desire” that gives warmth and passion to the mostly bitter and pained vocals that guide the track. The track’s secret weapon however is how it repeatedly moves itself from calm to angry or ecstatic, making each chorus its own unpredictable explosion of emotion. “Brief Shield” moves with a tempered worry that echoes through its tense string arrangements, making for a testing listen. Though it’s not easy, repeat listens find the song one of the more pensive and lasting efforts on the record.
“Take Everything” ditches the calm energy quickly to move to a churning anger, as it reflects on teenage memories with adult angst. Though there’s a true sense of wonder between these more gritty moments, the track just runs too long to make it all feel worth it. The up and down ride of “Pieces Wasted” goes from discontent to warped as the track slips into a deep psychedelic trance. While this could go dry quite fast, Ought up the weirdness to a demented factor as the track outros in a mix of abrasive percussion, feedback and aggressive strings.
Ought closes on their most epic note with “Alice” as they ramp up the tension through their slow and thought out riffing, making every release all the more satisfying. The song’s shift from hypnotic mantra to a decent into madness ends the album with a marvelous and haunting wail.
Words by Owen Maxwell