Album Review: Ought – Sun Coming Down

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Ought is a band that beautifully thrives off of the mundane. When thinking about their impeccable past work, their songs are almost like loaded streams of consciousness; conversational admissions slowly turning into epiphanies though the duration of the carefully delivered, passionate instrumentals. They derive inspiration from anxiety, from the coinciding fear and distaste for the future, from the little inexplicable things that make humans, well, human – while at the same time comforts in the way it assures the beautiful ordinariness of everyday life. Perhaps this is why the Montreal quintet’s debut More Than Any Other Day was such a brilliant and thoughtful album, and that massive success transposes itself into into the emotionally lighter Sun Coming Down, their fantastic sophomore release.

While they are a band born out of protest, Ought’s music has never gorged itself on rage or unrest – not even in their fiery debut, where stark instrumentals and shouts into the void are put on display. Rather, the band generally seems to gracefully express their subtle distaste for their surroundings and their current situations through simple, tastefully orchestrated instrumentals and educated, intellectual commentary as anxiously dictated by frontman Tim Darcy, who yelps rather than sings. That system is further practiced in Sun Coming Down, where Ought remove their weathered armor after their ascent into epiphany, and instead take comfort in exposing a soft, yet toughened underbelly. There are fewer moments of intense realization, and there aren’t exactly any equivalents to the stunning ballad “Habit” or those specific feelings. However, in the way that this album is orchestrated, it doesn’t need one, and spends more time addressing as many things as possible with an added emphasis on emotional depth.

Opener “Men for Miles” is exactly the kind of track to start things off with, based on it’s unyielding, unrelenting nature of Darcy’s frantic, mile-a-minute vocals and the fact that the instrumentals seem to do their own dance, which is succeeded with the fervid, energetic track “The Combo.” The vocals and lyrics are really the main focal point of the album, whether its meaning or the sounds in which the actual words make. The only time it takes a breather is in “Passionate Turn,” where the band executes their most “romantic” song to date. “Beautiful Blue Sky” further explores their underlying theme of the mundane, but here we hear Darcy listing random grievances with modern life before exploding into a slew of run of the mill questions fit to ask standing around a water cooler or a work barbecue (“How’s the family?/ How’s your health been?/ Fancy seeing you here!”), repeating them incessantly to the point of suffocation. Towards the middle of the song he interrupts himself with a blatant yes as if to show his contentment with all methods of living life, which seems to sum up the album’s intent to embrace the ebb and flow of the everyday, or simply the release of tension. One of Ought’s greatest strengths is talking about the mundane without actually personifying its monotonous nature, and Sun Coming Down is chock full of  examples. Where the album really shines is in it’s moments of repetition in the lyrics, something in which I feel that only a few bands can successfully pull off. However, the track that really makes this album a stunner for me is the mercurial track “On the Line,” where the band does something riskier and fresher in composition. It flawlessly switches between spoken word poetry with vivid imagery and a fast, unapologetic guitar track in a frantic daze before dissolving passionately into submission. The instrumentals linger on Darcy’s every word, showing off their group dynamic and proves their abilities to become one unrelenting force. It’s a track that solidifies Ought further for me personally, not including More Than Any Other Day‘s “Pleasant Heart.” The album closes with the impassioned track “Never Better,” leaving a jagged edge and a sense of fulfillment.

Sun Coming Down is the contented, more relaxed follow up to More Than Any Other Day, but it is presented in a way that begs for it to be further embraced and understood just like its predecessor. While I do prefer the darkened, cynical edges of their debut, I still appreciate the fastidiousness in which they complete projects, and the fact that this album came as a complete surprise to me was what made me love it even more. The endearing qualities about Ought is that they always try to maintain a level-head while also entertaining the desires of madness and passion in their music, and the fact that they always help you take comfort in your own skin.

9.0/10

P

photo by Hera Chan
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