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Oceanics: Bright People

30 May 2012 2,340 views No Comment

By Jessica Bal

The sudden onslaught of another New York City summer, with its muggy afternoons and balmy evenings, begs for a sunny soundtrack. Queensland-based band Oceanics is sure to propel you to the beach with their new EP “Bright People,” released mid-May. The quartet feels like the Australian version of The Kooks or Arctic Monkeys, removed from grey British landscapes and soaked for a few vacation days in UV rays.

This is a highly polished effort by Oceanics. Each of the five tracks is catchy and clean, marked by tight arrangements and a professional balance of guitar, percussion, and vocals. Elliot Weston’s controlled, wailing voice gives the tracks youthful exuberance and a hint of yearning. Despite the upbeat energy of the entire EP, most songs deal with troubles in love. “American Honey,” which winds down from Weston’s blaring calls for a few intervals of descending guitar notes, inquires “Could you ride alone again my only friend?/Should I leave ya, should I leave us?” But heartbreaks, filtered through Brit-pop gloss, feel more like hazy memories than real-life pain. A recklessness (or acceptance?) of romantic struggle colors “Indigo Girl,” with lyrics like “Why don’t we go out?/Yeah, let’s go out, let’s make some mistakes.” Though there’s recognition of tough stuff, nothing is ever grave. There’s a feeling that these boys could surf away their troubles – or at least drown them in potent percussion.

The first single, “Chinatown (is not Newtown),” has quieter moments nestled in its otherwise vigorous tempo, building from a couple of bouncy guitar riffs into an assertive, multi-layered, hair-toss-worthy anthem. These songs never stay still for long, though the occasionally fallout of percussion for a few precise guitar strums keeps things just varied enough to maintain an essential ebb and flow of sound.

A stand-out on “Bright People” is the last track: “Girl Don’t Tell Me.” It’s a Beach Boys cover, perfectly suited to Oceanics’ summery vibe. Their take on the 1965 song pumps up the percussion and features shimmery reverb effects. Weston’s comparatively understated vocals make this one more retro-pop than indie rockin’, but it’s a welcome addition and slight departure from the rest of the EP.

“Bright People” is undeniably bright, chock full of energy and addictive melodies. It will easily make its way into your rotation for a July road trip, but – like summer – it can’t really last. Oceanics have proven that they can construct slick arrangements with some real emotions hidden behind their revved-up tunes. But there’s room for more variety in sound (within songs and between songs). If Oceanics can coax more complexity out of their tracks, and let their instruments dip into some of the more vexing themes in their lyrics, they’ll rise above breezy listening. A little grit could do these sun-soaked Aussies some good. Get some sand between our toes, and it’ll stick to listeners long after we’ve left the beach.

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