Album Review :
Ocean Is Theory - Future Fears

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Artist: Ocean Is Theory (iTunes) (Spotify)
Title: Future Fears
Label: none
Release Date: 12/11/12
Reviewer: Carter Fraser

Tracklisting:

  1. While We’re Young
  2. Underneath
  3. Best Intentions
  4. King Size Bed
  5. Scared Now
  6. Nervous Boy
  7. Reasons for Breathing
  8. When We Can Sleep
  9. Candlewood Lake
  10. Bridgeport
  11. My Halo

Ocean Is Theory have, to quote them, the best intentions. They play the type of no-nonsense indie rock that can be easily labeled as alternative. Ocean Is Theory have got some bravado, something that seems to have fallen a little to the wayside in recent years, or has been relegated to “ironic”. They aren’t listening though; Future Fears isn’t tinged with bitterness, nor is it detrimentally naive. It sounds like a band just writing music, because that’s what bands do, right? There’s no ulterior motives, tricks, contexts, just what you hear.

“Underneath” sets the tone for Future Fears and shows off Ocean Is Theory’s straightforward melodicism as well as any track, introducing vocalist Josh Williams as a talented frontman capable of sounding personable in one moment before breaking out in a shout for the chorus. It’s one of the three songs released last year on a similarly titled EP to make an encore on this version of Future Fears, the other two being its successors “Best Intentions” and “King Size Bed”. These remain the backbones of Future Fears and are easily standouts. “Best Intentions” is the party rocker of sorts, and “King Size Bed” is perhaps the most dynamic song on these Atlantans debut LP, adeptly starting soft, yet upbeat, and seamlessly transitioning back and forth between pensive and lively.

The problems don’t arise until you get deeper into Future Fears. Ocean Is Theory tend to play it safe a little too much, and again the best songs are the ones that had been released already. As Future Fears progresses a formula starts to become more and more apparent. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with an album of verse chorus verse chorus and so on, but in this case it starts to sound a little one-note. There’s not a true acoustic song, however I don’t think Future Fears needed one—but a gutsier rocker might have been nice, or something. The majority of the variation comes within the first four songs. My gripe isn’t even necessarily with the tracklisting, but with their tendency to fall back into basic guitar rock when given the opportunity to create a strong structural narrative for the album as a whole. The emotional highs and lows can be few and far between, rarely succeeding in carrying momentum from one song to the next, so while Future Fears may be catchy and fun, it has to push hard to engage the listener on a deeper level.

I’m splitting hairs, as my score would attest, and there are exceptions. “Candlewood Lake” is an anxious midtempo track, reflecting on touring and the things they’ve seen, specifically a city flooded and now covered by a lake. Following it up is “Bridgeport”, which provides perhaps the best individual moment on Future Fears, certainly in the second half. It doesn’t come till the end of the song, a gorgeous, simple refrain “I never thought that we would get home / I never thought that it’d get this cold”, supported by a xylophone and hushed vocal melody.

Overall: Future Fears snuck in late this year. A label dispute caused them to break from Razor & Tie, so after multiple setbacks we’re just now getting our hands on Ocean Is Theory’s first full-length. But anyone that thought 2012 lacked any oomph should check out Future Fears to hear some comfortable, yet definitely memorable tunes.

RIYL: Starflyer 59 (My Island era), Edison Glass, Sherwood, Tallhart, Watashi Wa

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