ODESZA: In Return (Counter, 2014)

September 13, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

ODESZA: In Return

ODESZA: In Return

ODESZA’s rise to popularity has been lightning-fast, already signing to Ninja Tune-affiliated label Counter after releasing several free self-released EPs and an album since 2012. They’ve been constantly touring since then (and they’re coming to the Blind Pig on 10/8!), and at this point they’re selling out shows in advance. This album refines their glossy, chopped-vocal chillwave sound into something more high-res and poppy, with more than half the tracks featuring guest vocalists. This results in some fun poppy songs (“Say My Name”, with a chorus joyously declaring “I wanna dance with you!”, and appropriately dancey music), but I feel like their sound says enough without lyrics. There’s enough sampled vocals in their music already that it still sounds coherent and communicates something, and even if the vocals are chopped up beyond the constraints of words, they still are catchy enough to stick in your head. The tracks without proper vocals seem kind of short, you kind of wish they’d go on longer, but if they did they’d probably just be repeating themselves, so really they’re fine the way they are. But even on the songs with proper vocals and lyrics, the vocal samples are used as an extra instrument, used to accentuate specific moments of ecstasy (as on “Echoes”). They draw from a variety of exotic-sounding influences too, with tracks like “Sundara”, “Kusanagi”, and “Koto” having Eastern-sounding instruments and vocal samples complementing their titles, and thumb pianos (among other acoustic instruments) showing up in tracks like “It’s Only”. Overall my favorite track would have to be “Koto”, with its no-nonsense tough distorted beat, crystalline melodies and glitched vocal samples. Extended bliss-out closer “For Us” is another highlight, though, with another chilled yet adrenaline-rushing beat, and an extended cool-down period for the last couple minutes. When vocalist Briana Marela sings “it feels like it’s perfect”, it pretty much does.

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