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Album Reviews

Ought - Sun Coming Down

Dan Burney

The wide commercial success of Montreal-based Post-Punk band Ought’s debut album More than Any Other Day (April 2014) gave the band the gift of excessive touring, which in return, created the bands progression to Sun Coming Down. It is evident that the Sun Coming Down is, at its core, a live album. The first single, Beautiful Blue Sky, as well as the title track, were both debuted though live recordings before the initial release of the sophomore LP (posted by Pitchfork at the Pitchfork Festival Paris and Pitchfork Festival Chicago).

This doesn’t come off as a surprise when studying the release of Once More with Feeling (October 2014), the 4-track EP that worked as a stepping-stone between the two LPs. The centerpiece track off this EP, New Calm Pt. 2, works as a satire to performing and song structure, addressing the listener as if addressing an entire crowed with lines like “…everybody put your arms in the air/that’s the generally accepted sign for not having a care” and even creating the illusion of forgetting the lyrics “That’s the re- I me now that I am dead inside”, establishing that connection between audience and performer you feel when seeing a band perform live, making you understand exactly what a live show of this band will be like. This song is, again, the stepping-stone to Sun Coming Down, where Ought learns to record songs with the same mannerisms that they perform with live.

The album sounds like hashed out jolts of noise, hastily recorded in between shows, even containing essences of improv in the song. But in no way does this take away from the album or make if feel unfinished. In comparison to their previous album, Sun Coming Down feels much more ‘Ought’ than any other release. Singer-Guitarist Tim Darcy has become self aware after touring More than Any Other Day and has used this knowledge to sculpt Sun Coming Down’s mixing. The slow ballads and forced precision of the More than Any Other Day is absent. What is left is what I believe to be what Ought is best at. They have learned to work with what they’re best at. They use drummer Tim Keen (who must have grew up playing metal with his drum style) to carry each song through the multiple stages present with skillful accuracy, letting bassist Ben Stidworthy and keyboardist Matt May to carry the melody, while Darcy is free to present his lyrics almost theatrically with almost a silly satire, changing the vocal melody as he goes, though still holding strong that what he is saying is serious and important. Darcy guitar work is also vastly changed in this new album, being used as an anxiety driven accent to the songs, rather than carrying the melody. Ought have learned to write songs emphasizing what they know best, rather than forcing songs, which is my biggest critique of More that Any Other Day.

Darcy’s awareness is worth repeating, because Sun Coming Down has a central theme of awareness to your surrounding world. Songs like Beautiful Blue Sky use communication with others to express Darcy’s disconnection from the world. The repetition of 'bullshit small talk' expressions (“How’s the family?[...]Fancy seeing you here[…]Beautiful weather today[…]How’s the church? How’s the job?”) and then following with “I’m no longer afraid to die/ Because that is all that I have left/ Yes” paints Darcy out to be someone to torn down by modern life demands, talking comfort in his self acceptance of death, using it as his only self-fulfilling quality to escape. The satirical presentation of the lines “Gonna figure it out/ And then bring it on in/ There’s a group here/ You’ll fit right in” off the trackCelebration further points towards Darcy’s disconnect. He, when talking about his songwriting, was quoted in an interview with The Quietus “I can safely say that everything on the [More than Any Other Day] is sincere and heartfelt, even the tongue-in-cheek or sillier parts.” Similarly to what the Talking Heads did withOnce In a Life Time, Ought is presenting the difficulties of being modern. Add elements of satire, put them with lyrics focused on the modern man finding the power to change his mundane life, mix this with anxiety-driven dissonant post-punk, and you get the message of Sun Coming Down.

With this release it is more relevant then ever, Ought understands their music more than we do. This may not contain as catchy melodic tracks as their previous album contained, but after listening through the progression of music leading toSun Coming Down, it is the most obvious next step. This album was essentially what 4 Montréal based musicians have to make to become the band Ought.

By Colton O'Connor