Perfectly recreating the expertly mixed, charming sound that Oh Wonder has become synonymous with, Oh Wonder’s new effort Ultralife…
Have you ever wandered down a busy London street and wondered how a bus timetable might affect the quality of a sound recording? No me neither. However, this conundrum was constantly on the back of pop-indie outfit Oh Wonder’s mind whilst penning their follow-up album. The duo opted to record the majority of their second album in a shed at the bottom of a garden. Ok, so it’s more of a kitted out home studio than a shed. Nevertheless, the duo admitted to recording the vocal tracks later at night in a bid to avoid the late night London buses as they roared just beyond the Garden fence.
A suburban symphony of sirens can also be added to the wide range of interesting instrumentation used on the record. Police sirens lifted directly from the streets of New York, cry out in the early seconds of the opening track. ‘Solo’ is the epitome of minimalistic bliss as music box chimes wrap themselves around subtle clicks and bangs. Much like the repeated lyrical chants “breathing in and breathing out” the sounds feel as if they are swirling along to an internal rhythmic current.
The title track ‘Ultralife’ teeters in with its twinkling piano, distant bongo hits and tales of love and life. This song has such peaceful vibes that it may make you want to travel to the peaks of Peru in search of higher purpose, enlightenment and those sick distant bongo hits.
Not many songs start with the eloquent and dulcet tones of Microsoft Sam/Mary in perfect harmony with a guitar. The robotic reverberations and delicate acoustic pics soon give way though, to a detonation of alarming synths and bombastic drums. ‘High on Humans’ is arguably one of the more creative forces on the album. It’s exciting, it’s intense and it’s so catchy that computers want to sing along.
Unfortunately, the oh so wonderful vibes laid out by the first few numbers soon seem to dissipate. A lot of the latter songs on the record feel like B-sides from the first album and while you can’t knock the duo’s drive and productivity; you can’t help but wonder if they’ve traded in a handful of amazing songs for a plethora of awkwardly average songs.
Ultralife is good. But it just slightly misses the beat on being great as the songs begin to fizzle out the further you fall down the list. All in all, it is an easy listening experience and while it doesn’t dare to dazzle with new tricks; it perfectly recreates the expertly mixed, charming sound that Oh Wonder has become synonymous with.
The album is available to pre-order here.