Sit back and relax with the cool sweet tunes of The Ocean Party’s newest album Soft Focus, released on the 31st October via Spunk Records.
The Ocean Party’s newest installment to their ever-growing repertoire Soft Focus presents some cleverly layered, atmospheric tracks that highlight a nostalgia to Australian rock of years’ gone by; the laid back twang created by an ever-present guitar riff taking the listener on a journey to sunny, sandy beaches.
Soft Focus is the fourth album for The Ocean Party, and feels like an effortless extension of their longer line of work. With their 2013 album Split presenting a similar vibe and sound to what listeners can expect from Soft Focus, it presents cool and calm tracks that engulf the listeners attention through extended guitar riffs and light vocals that seem to just cruise along. The tracks are reminiscent of a summer time past, with tracks that act as connections to an Australian way of life with their lyrics highlighting personal experiences growing up in Wagga and the static environment of Aussie country towns.
Soft Focus presents a cohesive mix of fresh new sounds and ‘laid back reflectiveness’ through the clever use of big band instruments such as the sax pulled back to their most raw form, the albums congruency not surprising considering that Soft Focus; apart from being the consolidation of three previous album experimentations, was recorded over a longer period of time than their previous work and had a very deliberate, meticulous process. Each song feels like an extension of its predecessor, the tune and riff similarities creating a narrative-like transition of sound from ‘Went Out’ to the closing track ‘Cut Throat’, yet still retains the individuality of each track.
Knowing the band grew up as country kids, it’s hard to not draw connections between their lyrics and country town living, such as those in ‘Deluded:’ “I haven’t seen you in a while, but you’re exactly the same”. The sound fuses together a backing track like the sound of Wild Nothing, with vocals like Wavves and strong, lazed and dazed similarities to Best Coast; creating an interesting mix of synth and guitar pop.
Sharing the songwriting and recording between the six of them, The Ocean Party brought in a few Aussie musical heavyweights to add the finishing touches to some of the tracks, with guests like Rob McComb from the Triffids, Lehmann B Smith (Kes Band), Luke McDonald (John Steele Singers), and Ashley Bundang (Zone Out, Totally Mild) weighing into the album. Band member Lachlan shares his talents with his band Ciggie Witch, the band referencing an obvious link to the ocean with its relaxed, guitar-pop sound.
The opening track ‘Went Out’ sets the tone for the whole album perfectly, however it’s the second track ‘Wading In’ that’s the most poignant song on the album. The first single to be released from the album, ‘Wading In’s sound is unequivocally Australian, the song hitting home with the lyrics of “wading through the mess that was made,” drawing parallels to both the stereotypical Aussie beach life that brands itself on most of the country, as well as the feeling of disillusionment that perpetuates lives of 20 somethings in Australia.
There’s a sense of freedom and undeniable spirit that forms the personality of the album, created through an extremely layered and textured sound. The clever mixing of synth, old band instruments such as the sax, and a gentle yet pervading guitar riff makes the voice appear to just float along above it, with the album seamlessly evoking the feelings of a laid back summer’s day. There is a strong sense of nostalgia intermixed with a sense of quiet optimism within the album, caused by the far-off quality of the backing track and strong personal links to the country within the lyrics. The album is on the most part quiet, yet demands your attention by the way that each song culminates sun-kissed lyrics with life expectations and experiences, which in itself creates an album that tells more of a story than a staggered mish mash of songs and sounds.
People have called Soft Focus romantic, even new-romantic, and in a way, I have to agree. It’s just something about the way the instruments and sonic sounds marry to create a layered sound that is a beautiful harmony of separate sounds and instruments, and is an album I’m sure will tire very few.
Soft Focus is out now via Spunk Records.