From their name, Other Lives, you might guess that members Jonathon Mooney, Josh Onstott and Jesse Tabish were some sort of spiritual shaman trio, but really they are just three guys from Stillwater, Oklahoma. Despite their humble beginnings, their dreamy pop more than lives up to its name and it’s connotations as spiritual leaders.
On their third full length album, Rituals, it seems as though Other Lives have used the ancient, well-known ritual of a seance to summon the musical spirits of Imogene Heap, The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills and Nash. This strange mix of electronica, famously ethereal, sixties, surfer pop melody and folk singer sensibilities creates a phantasmagorical world that the listener falls into.
There is a sense of urgency from the very first track on the record, “Fair Weather.” The synths are the sonic representation of a new day breaking. While “Pattern” has interconnecting and battling synths–ones that oscillate between two tones, like an Olympic table tennis match, and others that fall like crystallizing rain drops–and soaring falsetto vocals, with the resounding refrain of, “I should have known better.” It sounds like it could be right at home in the Garden State soundtrack to comfort disillusioned twenty-year-olds with no job. And yet, it is one of the standouts on the album.
Another standout on the record is “Easy Way Out.” Centering musically on an acoustic guitar, sparse synths and a fifties sock-hop drum beat, this is the song that borrows most from the simple, storytelling tradition of the sixties singer-songwriters. It tells the story of a couple who will be happy in their unhappiness. The singer muses: “You control the weather / And I’ll pay the rent / We could be happy in this settlement / We could find an easy way out.”
Lyrically, the album deals with disillusion with the modern world, but the music yearns for the listener to escape. There is a push and pull like the synths and the guitars; like the youth culture itself. The trick of it all is that you don’t notice. Rituals is a very good ritual.