Ought’s 2014 debut More Than Any Other Day brought the Montreal quartet sudden and universal critical acclaim – including high praise from Drowned in Sound, Exclaim, Rolling Stone, NME, and a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork. They have been riding a wave of furious productivity ever since, spending much of the past year on the road – where their channeling of passion, politics and charisma consistently connects with and galvanizes each and every audience.
Based in Montreal, Ought are a thrilling and adventurous quartet, delivering an earnest and exuberant post-punk: dextrous and exacting while bursting with propulsive and fluid energy, as indebted to Cap’n Jazz as to Talking Heads. The band shifts adeptly from sharp angles and stuttering counterpoint to softer edges and chiming flow, the instrumental interplay consistently whipsmart, supple and deceptively simple. Guitarist and vocalist Tim Darcy’s declarative, observational style ranges from stately, composed oratory to ragged, impassioned yelp, by turns wide-eyed and worried, but never submitting to cool irony or emotional detachment.
Their new album, Sun Coming Down, maintains the band’s tight, twitchy and economical sound, with the unfussy, understated rhythm section of drummer Tim Keen and bassist Ben Stidworthy anchoring Tim Darcy’s electric guitar and Matt May’s fuzzed-out keys (sounding, as often as not, like a second guitar). Ought pursue an artistically apposite austerity in committing these new songs to tape, referencing the arid and unvarnished production of no-wave and early indie rock while balancing carved-out angularity against an evolving comfort with textural coalescences and measured pacing. It makes for an album that’s consistently, insistently propulsive but also feels unhurried and pleasantly unhyped. Songs like “Beautiful Blue Sky” (already a fan favorite from live shows) and “Never Better” unfold with gradual and deliberate ebb and flow, where scratchy guitars play like dappled shards of light on gently roiling waves of bass and organ; “The Combo” and “Celebration” keep things crisp and concise. Darcy’s voice and lyrics continue to distinguish and define the personality of the band: his blend of ironic detachment, declarative insistence, fragmentary stammering poetics, and the occasional direct aside to the listener, finds various ways to weave within or drive through the mixes.
Sun Coming Down confirms the distinctive vitality and purposive naturalism of this band; Ought resists facile primitivism and overhyped dynamics in equal measure, keeping things hermetic but never airless, ascetic but never dispassionate, literate but never prolix. The band’s steady and subtle charms don’t make them the cool kids or the iconoclastic freaks - just a satisfyingly unrefined and substantive rock band that eschews indulgence or aesthetic bandwagoneering to seek a humble, thoughtful corner from which to articulate a position within and contribute meaningfully to a 40-year continuum of indie, punk and DIY tradition.
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