Review Summary: Oceana's strongest outing to date.
Oceana has gone through quite a transformation the past few years. Their debut album, titled The Tide
, was a post hardcore album through and through with little to no variation on the formula. Then-vocalist Keith Jones screamed through about thirty-eight minutes, adding little variation to the surprisingly somewhat interesting instrumentation. There were a few moments of brilliance, but for the most part it didn’t seem that this band was particularly going anywhere new; we have all witnessed the ascendance of Rise Records bands before, and there would inevitably be another band to take this one’s place once Oceana had run out of steam to power the hype-train. After Jones left the band, and they picked up vocalist Brennan Taulbee, things became very interesting very quickly. There was a stylistic shift over to a more melodic and thought-provoking sound. Birth.Eater
, the band’s second release, was an album that explored concepts such as abortion and faith, and put more focus on the lyrical aspect of things. While not a perfect album, it was the bridge to the indie rock that the band has now adopted in place of the much more frenetic and aggressive style that they initially played. On Clean Head
, they have completely dropped the breakdowns and screaming of albums’ past, pushing a more melodic and mature album. Taulbee’s vocals are the driving force behind the music here, as his voice is dripping with emotion. Whether it be despair or joy, his voice falters, stutters, and quavers as if his life depends on getting his words out. For it being such a rock-oriented record, it is surprisingly intimate and conveys a strong sense of atmosphere.
There is very deliberate instrumentation on this release, slow and steady has replaced the speedy drumming and aggressive guitar licks of past albums. The somewhat slowed down tempo on Clean Head
accentuates the weathered-sounding vocals and makes the album sound more massive in scope. The strongest song on the release, titled “Barracuda Capital of the World”, starts off with a very ethereal guitar line, putting more focus on the intimate vocals. The drums slowly creep in, softly at first and then after the first minute of the song unwinds, the simple but solid riff kicks in and creates a very catchy groove. Most of the songs here adopt a straight-forward sound, but it works well enough as the mid-paced songwriting creates an organic identity that is utterly unlike the previous two releases. Whereas The Tide
created an overproduced atmosphere that took away from their sound, this album thrives on an almost live-in-concert sound dynamic. One listen to the beginning to final song “Joy” will prove this, as the vocals that come in at the beginning of the song are hushed and confessional.
While this release is only four songs long, this certainly feels like the band’s strongest outing. The honesty in the music displayed here has the charisma of a band such as mewithoutyou, and it is unfortunate that this ended up being the band’s swan song under the name of Oceana. They were in a position to create quite an amazing album, and the fact that they were able to wrestle themselves away from a genre that produced nothing but copies of copies points to the passion that they have for creating worthwhile music, and it bleeds through in every aspect of their songwriting.