Oh Wonder’s self-titled debut album isn’t really a debut at all. To keep up in the internet era, Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht are doing things a little differently: every month, the London duo release a new track online. As a result, this record doesn’t offer fans a whole lot in the way of new material. Instead, it bundles things into a neat package for people about to jump on board. Because, despite the questions this new model for making music raises, do jump on board: Oh Wonder is a sweet and sparse, the soundtrack to a summer night’s drive.
If nothing else, dropping a song every month has earned the pair a lot of attention. Every track Oh Wonder has released has topped the Hype Machine Chart. They’ve been added to BBC Radio 1 and MTV Brand playlists and plugged by the likes of i-D, NME, The Guardian and SPIN. If that’s not enough, they’ve earned some 25 million streams across Soundcloud and Spotify.
Accolades aside, Oh Wonder set off to a slow groove from the get-go. Tracks haven’t been listed in the order they were released, which says a lot about how albums are formed (and maybe why they’re still relevant in an age of streaming services). ‘Livewire’ opens things up with light pops of electronic percussion, introducing the record’s minimal sound. Anthony and Josephine can be heard here in more ways than one: the pair write, produce, mix and sing in their own tracks. Their soft tones melt together, and it’s no surprise these vocals feature at the forefront of their spacious sound.
‘White Blood’ teams piano melodies with clean, modern beats. The Oh Wonder pair – who are both classically trained multi-instrumentalists – do well to merge the new with the old like in ‘Lose It’, where piano chords meet a tight rhythm to deliver the one of the album’s more heated moments.
New tracks ‘Plans’, ‘Heart Hope’ and ‘Without You’ follow the record’s relaxed pace. ‘Plans’ is a slow ode to a reaching someone far away; in ‘Heart Hope’, the duo reflect on finding room to breathe in the pace of city living, while ‘Without You’ is confession to missing somebody set to an upbeat rhythm. It would have been nice to see something more hurried and assertive from the album’s only unreleased material, and as a result, tracks tend to blur together to form a drawn-out dream sequence.
Oh Wonder is an experiment in where music is heading. Over three-quarters of the album’s material is already available (for free!) online. But I doubt this will affect the record’s success – or even its sales. Free has become a marketable resource, and oh, are Oh Wonder selling it. These two will only continue to get bigger, in part because their music is so accessible. Sit back and relax; Oh Wonder’s pared back tracks just need some sun and a bit of time off this summer.
Oh Wonder will perform at Falls Festival and Southbound early next year. Their album is out September 4 via Dew Process.