Album Review: Ohmme – Fantasize Your Ghost

[Joyful Noise; 2020]

Chicago’s art-rock duo Ohmme, comprised of Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham, spent their debut album Parts harnessing their roots and influences into a splashy and endearing record. It was equal parts Dirty Projectors and Sleater-Kinney, and coming off the heels of their guest spots with Chance the Rapper and Jeff Tweedy, Parts put Ohmme on the indie world’s radar. Relentless touring ensued, and without COVID-19 we’d all be enjoying seeing them open for Waxahatchee or Wye Oak this year.

Thankfully, Fantasize Your Ghost will hold us over, as the tandem deliver an inspiring second act in their discography; one that feels crisper than their debut and starts to shed the comparisons of their influences. What shines through stronger on Fantasize Your Ghost is the synergy between the two, as they set out to accomplish a goal similar to Japandroids – capture that sound, that magic, of a live show. This is largely successful for them, as Cunningham and Stewart are so completely in sync for Fantasize Your Ghost that it pulls you into the audience and puts you front and center for a thrilling live show.

Opener “Flood Your Gut” acts as the perfect segue between the albums. It falls under that same skeletal frame as Parts’ strongest bits. Harmonizing vocals from the pair pull you in, feeling like a Bitte Orca-era indie-pop classic, but Ohmme don’t need the quirkiness of a David Longstreth here. This remains true as they roll right into “Selling Candy” which takes that crisp production and grinds it through a wood-chipper, delivering the album’s first hint that Ohmme is no longer the same band. The jaggedness of the Sonic Youth-ian scratches completely subvert the expectation, and with “Ghost” – the album’s first single – the two spiral through a lightly psych-pop melody that even gets a dusting of mainstream appeal during the 70s-glam-rock style chorus.

This isn’t to say that Ohmme have abandoned who they were on Parts. A lot of what makes Ohmme stand out from other contemporary art-rockers is their wholesome vocal pairing, which may provoke some Corin Tucker-Carrie Brownstein comparisons, but their slight pop tweaks push them into their own sphere. It’s quite admirable that they can maintain so much of their heart while still pushing more boundaries than before. Perhaps it’s a creative necessity borne from the grueling tour schedule they’ve kept over the last two years, but it’s more likely that it just comes with the pair’s desire to explore their sound in new glorious ways.

Fantasize Your Ghost avoids the sophomore slump fantastically. It’s every bit as organically stitched together as its predecessor, but manages to progress their ideas. As the duo vault back and forth stylistically on Fantasize Your Ghost, it all feels natural for them. So while the year 2020 mourns the loss of good live music, Ohmme swoop in with a refined and immersive dose of chaotic pop rock, and it’s very satisfying.