Sad, Poor Bastard
There probably aren’t too many people who have heard of Oakland-based “loud Americana” rock band Oceanography, as they’ve generally played shows in or near their natural habitat of California, straying to Oregon or occasionally New York. And while still without a full-length album, Oceanography has released their sophomore EP, Parachutes of Plenty.
The band consists of singer/songwriter/producer Brian Kelly, Scott Barwick (engineer/recording/keys) and Kathleen Richards (drums/songwriting helper), but the latter two are not necessarily permanent members; in fact, three different musicians—Garrit McGuire (drums), Bill Sanders (bass/vocals) and Steven Tough (keys)—were on stage with Kelly during a show at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco to celebrate the EP’s release. And Kelly has been known to show up for Oceanography shows by himself.
What is one expected to hear from a group self-labeled as loud Americana? They’ve been compared to the likes of old U2 , Depeche Mode and Duran Duran. Opener “Reggie Jackson” (named after a man who used to call Kelly from a collection agency who used that alias) reveals Kelly’s New Wave dark vocals in what might be the most upbeat of the five tracks. Richards picks up and slows down the pace amidst Kelly’s electric guitar and his loud, soaring voice.
“American Cars” is a song Kelly gives much of the credit to Richards for helping it come together. It contains a similar stop-and-go beat to “Reggie Jackson” and Kelly described the song as a “sad bastard ballad” that would have stayed in his notebook if it weren’t for Richards’ own drum beat. “Drinking Water” ends the album on what could be the most enjoyable track on the album, especially for those into a good old alt-rock sound.
While not really radio-friendly (except for maybe college stations) nor commercial-friendly due to the sad undertones that come with each song, the sound, particularly Kelly’s vocals that he often uses as an instrument rather than a voice singing lyrics, would likely make for an epic live performance.