Ought - Room Inside the World Album Review
Of all the bands to carry on the post-punk torch into the 2010s, no other band’s personality stands out quite like that of Montreal outfit Ought. Praised for their combination of frontman Tim Darcy’s passionate vocal delivery with sonically complex yet catchy punk instrumentation, few bands of the 2010s have felt like they are making rebellious artistic statements in as interesting as a way as Ought are. Now with their third studio album, their first with Merge Records, Ought stretches the scope of their sound and emotional capacity, but at the cost of the dynamic songwriting that was pertinent to their success.
Room Inside the World is like a hearty stew; the ingredients are fresh, it’s a healthy experience and you leave feeling full, but it’s blandly seasoned so it can appeal to as many people as possible. There’s nothing to point to in Room Inside the World that feels wrong or misplaced. It’s just simply missing something to elevate it to the heights it can so clearly achieve.
Darcy’s new vocal delivery reaches emotional heights he has always been able to achieve lyrically but never sonically. The band incorporates new instrumental choices like the dissonant synths toward the end of “Disgraced in America” as well as the choir in “Desire” that brings an extra layer of artistry to help the songs standout from average post-punk fare. Even the extra coat of production sheen made possible by Merge Records’ increased budget and producer Nicolas Vernhes makes Ought’s sound more grand.
But with these changes is the loss of Ought’s raw edge. When a band has such an influx in resources, great songwriting and innovative techniques can begin to fall to the wayside. There’s no moment on Room Inside the World that pushes the envelope in the way Ought’s first two records did, instead coming through with a solid release that sounds beautiful, but is too frail to hit hard. These choices don’t make Room Inside the World an album not worth listening, nor does it even hold the band back from going in an interesting direction with their music. But such a transformative move in the opposite direction of the band’s identity makes the album feel like a step sideways more than it does a step forward.
Still, despite the album not being the home run debut Ought was hoping to have on Merge, it’s a pleasant record nonetheless. Album flow from track to track is smoother than on previous releases, with particular attention paid to the closing three tracks. Over the course of “Take Everything,” “Pieces Wasted” and “Alice” a sense of melancholy and darkness seeps into the instrumentation, with the tempo dipping slightly and dissonant tones ringing slightly underneath the accompaniment.
Room Inside the World is a strong transitionary release for Ought, one that may not reach for high artistic heights but nevertheless executes confidently. If the band can find a way to blend these sonic and production evolutions with the brazen songwriting that put their name on the indie map, the group has the potential to put out one of the strongest post-punk releases the genre has seen since the 1980s.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Public Relations