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Reviews

Ought
Sun Coming Down Guia Cortassa , September 18th, 2015 10:53

After self-releasing their first EP in 2012, Ought subsequently gained a lot of attention and, not long after, a contract with the legendary Constellation Records. In the early days of Ought, Tim Darcy, Matt May, Ben Stidworthy and Tim Keen, (hailing respectively from New Hampshire, New Jersey, Portland and Australia) found themselves sharing a flat in Montreal – no doubt the epicentre of one of the most prolific indie music scenes of the latest 15 years, as well as Constellation's hometown – where they all ended looking for affordable college education. There, the four of them started hanging around the Mile End art community, playing clubs and recording demos in a bedroom/rehearsal space at their place.

Being around an artistic environment still genuinely grounded in DIY aesthetic and political activism shaped the core of Ought's mood and sound, with More Than Any Other Day their first full length, recorded in a week and released in 2014, unanimously acclaimed as one of last year's best debuts, finding its roots in a post-punk the likes of Television and Talking Heads.

Now, no later than 17 months after More Than Any Other Day, Ought are back with their second full length Sun Coming Down. Born during the winter in Montreal, "written, recorded, and actualised amidst joy and turbulence," as they wrote on Facebook, this time the main inspiration is pushed to seminal lo-fi and indie rock of the early 90s. There's layers of straight guitars and synths that can be mistaken for six-strings backing a blunt, pitched voice, added to a still late-70s-inspired post-punk framework, with echoes from Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground to no-wave and Sonic Youth. Though the structure of the album is the same as the previous one, with eight fairly timed tracks, Darcy stripped his vocals of all the melody, getting to a spoken-words-like singing, at times extremely close to David Byrne's – especially on songs like 'Passionate Turn'. Elsewhere it recalls a Stooges-era Iggy Pop, as on the title track 'Sun's Coming Down', or on 'On The Line', openly declaiming "I am your dog" in the verse over fuzzed guitars.

Listening to the record feels like hearing a neurotic, paranoid version of Pavement. Moreover, in the lyrics it's not difficult to catch a glimpse of Darcy's former life as a poet. His words are sharp and witty in describing the frantic bewilderment of solitude and despair of our times: the endless search for our true selves in an all-consuming era; the need of sincerity in a world of nihilist irony. He's in it, he's deeply involved in what he's stating with his songs: that's where the already thin artsy coat comes completely off and the activist soulfulness gets in, generating a natural continuation of More Than Any Other Day's themes.

All in all, Sun Coming Down is a valuable step forward from its already very good predecessor. Despite all the past influences and references, the band succeed in not making the album sound derivative or shallow, rather adding an acquainted contemporary feel to the likely retromaniac taste of their music. It definitely looks like there's a blue sky over Ought's path.

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