Friday, November 2, 2018

The Ocean Party - The Oddfellows' Hall

While The Oddfellows' Hall is nothing short of brilliant, we note at the onset that this is the saddest review we ever expect to write because earlier this week Zac Denton, one of the six members of the band and brother of bandmate Lachlan Denton, died of complications from a brain cyst.  Zac was immensely talented, well-loved, and only 24 years old.  Our words are insufficient to convey our sympathy at such a loss.

Long-time friends and a band of musical brothers, The Ocean Party is one of those indie bands that will be revered for years to come by those who treasure guitar pop craftsmanship.  One can devote a lot of words describing their music and referencing predecessors, such as The Go-Betweens, Triffids, The Lucksmiths, but for us the bottom line always has been that this is the kind of genuinely sincere and beautifully shimmering music that justifies writing this blog and sharing music we love.  For their new album, the six songwriters convened at Oddfellows Hall in the rural Australian town of Yass and began their session.  A week later they had a 12-track album, as well as the title The Oddfellows' Hall.  This band has been prolific by any measure, both in this form (this is their eighth album as The Ocean Party) and in other projects, but no recording represents anything other than thoughtful, emotionally resonant storytelling and collaborative, textured performances.  This album finds the band members headed towards their 30s and dealing with the life events and transitions expected after a decade or so of adulthood.  While the basic facts are not necessarily unique, the songwriting and arrangements transform the narratives to first-rate art.  The album begins with Zac Denton's stunning "Rain On Tin", which begins soft and sparse and then gathers power and color for a glorious three minute close.  The album ends with the sprawling, throbbing "Better Leave Soon".  Those are two superb songs bracketing another ten gems. With multiple songwriters, there is ample variety in themes, pace, and arrangement, but the band's generosity towards each other's compositions results in a cohesive musical tapestry.  We include below "Rain On Tin" and "Better Leave Soon" below, and also have embedded Zac's other contribution to the album, "Home", and "What It's Worth", which we think is one of the better songs we've heard this year.

The songs on this album were written and recorded long before Zac died, but the stories of transitions, hopes, fears, losses and regrets, especially those he wrote, take on immeasurable poignancy with his passing.  If you would like to hear more of Zac's songs than the two on this album, we recommend the playlist at this link, which contains songs from The Ocean Party and several of his other projects.  We also recommend the well-done write up about Zac's musical legacy here.

The band has released The Oddfellows' Hall early in honor of Zac.  While the vinyl version is for sale, the digital version is available at 'name your price'.  If you are in Australia or New Zealand, see The Ocean Party's Bandcamp link for digital and the Spunk Records link for vinyl.  For fans elsewhere see the Emotional Response Bandcamp link for digital or vinyl.

Bandcamp for The Oddfellows' Hall (Emotional Response Records)
Bandcamp for The Oddfellows' Hall (The Ocean Party)
Spunk Records page for vinyl edition

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