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Oh Wonder - Ultralife (Album Review)

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 Written by Milly McMahon

Attempting to encapsulate happiness, sadness, optimism, innocence and anger in a single aesthetic is a tough challenge, even for the most accomplished of musicians.

Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West are Oh Wonder, a poptimistic duo who self produce their own brand of sing-song electronic folk. Keeping simplicity at the centre of what they do and harmonising effortlessly, they do their best to conjure that orchestra of emotions on their sophomore album, 'Ultralife'.

There is a triumphant sense of ambition to engage the audience here, but also a light undertone of naivety that skips from track to track. Despite their referencing the sounds of the Magic Numbers, Kate Nash and Alphabeat, the appeal of Oh Wonder is to a younger audience: children of the early noughties.

The talent they possess is in truth capable of pushing beyond the confines of this LP. It relies heavily on keyboards and nursery rhyme vocal styles, while a more carefully thought through production would have lifted the finish. This is a romantic album tinged with melancholy, but that quality is not complemented by the jarring Disney-esque vocals.

It has its high points, though. Waste is beautifully written, with its metaphor and atmospheric vocals on point. There is a charged and provocative mood similar to the xx created throughout the brooding song, while High on Humans is a standout effort that speaks of the addictive essence in Oh Wonder’s style.

But it feels as though Oh Wonder are underestimating their audience’s ability to dig deeper and discover hidden depths. Staying true to the signature sounds of their eponymous debut album, little progression is made. For the fans who were recruited the first time around, maybe that’s what they were hoping for and more. But maybe not.

A pleasant background listen, tracks at the standard of Bigger Than Love shine through but elsewhere things are camouflaged by the convoluted choices made on songs like Solo. It is impossible to dislike Oh Wonder, but sometimes challenging to love them.

Oh Wonder Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 31 2017 - MANCHESTER Academy
Wed November 01 2017 - DUBLIN Academy
Thu November 02 2017 - GLASGOW Queen Margaret Union
Sat November 04 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Sun November 05 2017 - NORWICH Norwich Nick Rayns LCR UEA
Tue November 07 2017 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed November 08 2017 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

Click here to compare & buy Oh Wonder Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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