This Ought article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
In 2014, Montreal post-punk outfit Ought released their critical breakthrough album ‘More Than Any Other Day’. The band established themselves as a serious indie act to keep an eye on by blending storytelling prowess with noisy chaos – two elements that they somehow made sound as though they always belonged together.
The varied lyrical themes and adventurous structures added even more uniqueness, a uniqueness that gave Ought their own distinct personality, while still including a few nods to some post-punk/art-punk influences like David Byrne. ‘Sun Coming Down’ sees Ought continue most of the traits that made the band such a powerhouse on ‘More Than Any Other Day’, but with a few tweaks; some subtle, some very interesting.
The most noticeable alteration on ‘Sun Coming Down’ seems to be lead vocalist Tim Darcy’s approach to singing. Darcy seems to have decided to put a lot less emphasis on crazed noise-rock shouting, and has focussed more on spoken word-esque delivery, while throwing in a few strained, off-kilter melodies. This style of singing was present on the band’s previous album – notably on ‘The Weather Song’ – but is more prevalent here. For the most part, these vocals have a near-whimsical, ironic feel to them – for instance, on ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’, Darcy rambles his way through an array of everyday phrases such as “How’s the family? How’s the family?” and “Fancy seeing you here! Fancy seeing you here!” in an enjoyable and comical manner. He still gets quite intense here-and-there, but with a lot less aggression than before.
A highlight of ‘More Than Any Other Day’ was Ought’s impressive knack for structures, the album included a number of slow burners that built up to memorable, often-climactic choruses and refrains. They do a similar thing here, but more-so on the aforementioned ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’ than any other track. The song revolves around a sweet-yet-eerie, descending bassline, with instrumental textures being driven in and out over a near-eight minute period. In that time, the song never gets boring, and keeps up somewhat of a Talking Heads’ Remain in Light vibe, which is very special.
The instrumentation is aggressive, less-so than before, but the distorted guitar textures and chaotic rhythms remain. The guitar work is very diverse, throwing in the hard-hitting riffs when necessary while maintaining an old school hardcore punk approach in songs like ‘Men for Miles’ and ‘On the Line’.
The band also manage to use their instrumentation to add extra layers of emotion to a few songs, most notably in ‘Passionate Turn’, as expressive guitar riffs soar above crumbling percussion. This level of emotion also occurs right as the song ‘The Combo’ begins; this is an amazing moment of the album, as guitars and drums suddenly pour through the speakers, doing wonders for the flow and the overall feel of the record.
When Ought’s best characteristics aren’t on display, the compositions seem to suffer – closing track ‘Never Better’ doesn’t necessarily end the album on a high note; it just drags out a strange lack of direction for almost five minutes, which gets a bit tedious, just escaping feeling totally monotonous. There aren’t too many moments on the record that feel the way ‘Never Better’ does – one or two instrumental breaks feel quite uninspired, but the band’s overall uniqueness in their writing and presentation easily cancels those duller moments out.
On ‘Sun Coming Down’, Ought have kept hold of their post-punk edge, while making a few interesting changes. The well-executed balance of raw instrumentation and quirky storytelling is constantly present, and makes for a very satisfying listen.
‘Sun Coming Down’ is out now via Constellation Records.