Album reviews: Oceaán, Gemma Hayes, She & Him

Album reviews: Oceaán, Gemma Hayes, She & Him

Oceaán

The Grip EP/B3SCI Records

Genre labels are inherently shortsighted, but if you absolutely have to use one for Oliver Cean a.k.a. Oceaán’s, second EP, The Grip, then try dubhoptronica. Angelic synths and hip-hop beats marry together seamlessly on the closing track, “At Your Feet,” while “Veritas” combines wobbly rhythms with beats and what appear to be sound bites from 1980s video games in an engaging, unusual song. The title track tricks your brain, with its unusual time signature and gradually expanding dance track sensibilities, and is contrasted nicely by the chilled out, down-tempo vibe of “Candour.” The four songs mark a sense of exploration and individuality, with the occasional dubstep flourishes holding the EP’s musical narrative thread together. More a consideration of a possible genre than an attempt to participate in one with this album, The Grip ends up being wholly engrossing, simply because it gleefully, artfully does whatever the hell it wants to.

Gemma Hayes

Bones & Longing/Chasing Dragons

It’s been more than three years since Irish singer-songwriter Hayes released an album, and while Bones & Longing makes some stark sonic choices which might surprise fans, these are definitely surprises of the good variety. The reverb-heavy opener “Laughter” will raised the question of whether Hayes has turned a corner to alternative rock, and “Dreamt You Were Fine,” with its ambient quality and echoing vocals, does little to dispel the notion. This is not an unsuitable change, as her presence and vocals match just as well with heavy atmospherics as they do with a simple acoustic guitar. “Palomino” brings us back to her acoustic dexterity and “Dark Moon” is a dreamy, almost lullaby-like track with hypnotizing guitar work balancing out the appeal on this welcome new album.

She & Him

Classics/Columbia

M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel’s penchant for a warm, retro sound and simple production values is now getting the cover song treatment on Classics, with a series of songs from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Ward’s subtle guitar work steadily augments Deschanel’s timeless vocals, and the album itself has a dreamy, relaxing quality. There are no “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” kinds of songs here, where the rhythms are bouncy and overly upbeat, turning instead to a romantic take on the Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong song “Would You Like to Take a Walk?” The duo’s version of “It’s Not for Me to Say” is ’50s prom night perfect, and Bing Crosby and Chet Baker’s “It’s Always You” fits the old school romance bill as well. It’s an album that sets the mood in a way your grandparents would appreciate.

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