Music is the Meal, Instruments the Entree
Clearly, the band members of Oh Sees are happy playing their instruments, seeing as they spend the latter chunks of many of their songs on Orc, their latest effort, solely on instrumentals. One of a few common themes throughout this ten-song album is difficult-to-understand vocals, perhaps vocals muttered by none other than an Orc. The vocals tend to come in short bursts, neither beginning nor ending the songs, almost like a building whose most appealing feature is a hallway.
The album starts off with a head-banging groove in “The Static God,” and makes for an excellent opener, especially considering that a large portion of the rest of the album is less energetic than this. While it may not be the best representation of the album as a whole in terms of intensity, it does value instruments over singing. “The Static God” is the type of song that would distract someone trying to work if a friend started playing it. If not to dance, it makes listeners want to move in some form or another.
“Nite Expo” is something that an older brother in a movie would have playing in his car or in his room whenever the protagonist joined him (Jonathan Byers from “Strangers Things” comes to mind). It’s simple but has more hummable instrumentals than the track before it. Another trend throughout these songs is gripping intros that don’t always go where one would expect, which could be either pleasing or displeasing to listeners. “Animated Violence” and “Keys to the Castle” both have this trait, the former transitioning to a half-time groove where a regular-time feel was expected.
Other musically dazzling moments, which are for the most part more of the intros to songs (like “Paranoise” and “Cadaver Dog”), are in conflict with the tapering instrumental endings (or second halves rather) and the frankly weird vocals. The obvious style/trend that Oh Sees are going for is certainly part of their own brand, but it makes it very difficult to know what each song’s intended message was since the lyrics are short-lived and hard to understand. This music is ideal for gamers though, since a handful of the tracks (“Nite Expo,” “Cooling Tower”) have a video game soundtrack feel to them, and the lyrics are not distracting enough to bother the focused gamer.
This album is either of two things: all the listener ever needed but couldn’t properly express themselves or an effort that was only memorable for not being down the listener’s alley. Regardless, Oh Sees are proficient musicians, but it seems that singing is forever the side dish.