The Ocean Party // Soft Focus
Recommended Track: Bed as a Grave
Melbourne urbanites The Ocean Party are apparently somewhat of an indie rock mainstay down under in Australia. With a sizable fan following and a steady amount of material since 2011, Soft Focus marks their latest and fourth album release, an impressive feat for any up-and-coming band. Laden with melancholia and wrapped in lovesick nostalgia, Soft Focus features mellow and delicate indie pop, something you’ll be hard-pressed to find even when so many bands are currently experimenting or stuck on reviving the musical stylings of past decades. Instead, the Ocean Party have remained faithful to the original Shins-esque style of their 2012 debut LP The Sun Rolled Off The Hills, making Soft Focus the culmination of three years of aggressive songwriting and recording. Have the Ocean Party reached the pinnacle of their musical career?
Soft Focus opens with “Went Out”, an easygoing track layered with pleasurable particularities such as horns and subtle strokes of electric piano. The Ocean Party shuffle their vocalists throughout the album beginning with “Wading In”, another light-hearted and collected tune. This same casual mood is carried throughout the first half of Soft Focus before reaching “Bed As a Grave”, a more somber ode to the sanctuary of being in bed and the escapism of dreaming. “With my head in the clouds, sleepin’ away the hours,” the lyrics croon. Sounds like a normal day to me. “Floodlights”, “Charters Towers”, and “Norman Street” have sort of a late new-wave feel to them, complete the use of soft snyth and echoing guitar. However, the closing track “Still Stuck Out Here” is appropriately named, as I feel that the album fails to take off from its original destination.
While Soft Focus can be commended for quality and cohesion, the entirety of the album loses replay value after numerous listens. No particular song really shines or stands out from the rest. I’d definitely be interested in seeing The Ocean Party take some risks musically, especially if they seek to gain more American fans. With an American tour already under the belts, they’ve gained a small but significant foothold in the California scene. But it will take a little bit more to impress this highly opinionated side of the Pacific.