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Hey Ocean!

IS


[Universal; 2012]



By ; May 18, 2012 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG



I was first introduced to Canadian indie pop band Hey Ocean! back in February when I reviewed their single “Big Blue Wave.” It was a catchy little tune that invoked a lot of aquatic imagery as a metaphor for love that stood out as particularly original in indie pop, leaving expectations high for their major label debut, IS. Leading up to the release of this album, Hey Ocean! have been becoming increasingly popular since their formation in 2005. There are myriad reasons for this, including critically praised live shows performing alongside popular Canadians artists such as Dan Mangan; a steady flow of releases under their own record label and, since 2011, under the banner of Universal; and achieving international attention due to lead singer Ashleigh Ball’s involvement in the popular show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” [Editor’s Note: !]

While the band have had a few proficient albums and EPs under their belts since 2005, IS is where things really take off for them. It’s the sound of a group finding their sound: an organic, experimental pop style that builds off of tropical themes, delightful harmonies and celebratory atmospheres. IS is a beautiful ride. Album opener, “If I Were A Ship” has a simple but effective thumb piano melody throughout which is soon accompanied by Ball’s tender vocals and rather minimalist, yet hard-hitting wooden percussion. Elsewhere, string arrangements and violins throughout “Islands” lift a sombre little number into an emotional collaboration between Ball and band-mates David Beckingham and Dave Vertesi. Throughout, clever and catchy song-writing is made more compelling through quaint and interesting instrumental choices.

Stylistically, the band recall a younger Fleetwood Mac, insofar as all three members are credited as having written specific songs and take turns contributing vocals. Even more captivating is how different genres are explored throughout the record: the short “Bicycle” is a jazzy hand-clapping doo-wop track, while the sassy “Change” is an accomplished pop song that strides along with natural confidence and a promiscuous energy. While the most immediately satisfying tracks are weighted near the beginning of the album, the latter half is dotted with interesting songs that prevent repetition, such as the anthemic rock of “I Am A Heart” with its propulsive drumming and vocal chants designed to be played to stadium crowds, or the inspiring acoustic rock of “Give.” Mood and tone shift throughout the album, showing a wide degree of creativity without damaging what remains a cohesive whole when IS is taken in its complete form.

It’s interesting to hear such an accomplished record from a band who are still breaking ground, but such is often the case with indie acts: it takes a while for them to gain the popularity that they deserve, but, having now signed to Universal Music Canada and with a loyal group of fans, the future is certainly bright for Hey Ocean!. Their sound embraces emotion and, more often than not, hits a tender spot, such as during the climactic duet “Last Mistake.” This doesn’t stop the band from delivering more up-beat tracks, however, which prevents the album from growing stale. On repeated listens, the beautiful flutes and the pianos begin to make more of an impression, and the tunes begin to stick in your head for hours. This is artfully-written pop music that draws upon its influences while keeping one eye looking forward out to sea. Whatever is out there, Hey Ocean! will surely show us the way.


79%







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