It seems ridiculous to think that The Ocean Party are still an underrated band. I mean, how the fuck can someone like Royal Blood be doing well, when The Ocean Party have been plugging away with album after album of near perfection? Seriously, ever since they opened up in 2011, they’ve released three albums of spectacular jangle pop of the quiet ‘n’ vibrant variety. Listening to The Ocean Party is like hanging out with the shy kid from high school who owned all of The Clean’s albums whilst everyone else still listened to Slipknot, and could recite whole passages from ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’ – it’s understated, but if given a chance, it’ll open up to a whole, swirling world of cool.
Another thing that becomes apparent after following The Ocean Party for a while is how much they’ve blossomed over their careers. After starting out as shambling five-headed Hydra outta the unlikely home of Wagga Wagga (Australia’s ice and teenage pregnancy capital, ca-ching!), The Ocean Party moved to Melbourne. From there, they released a bunch of albums faster than the eyes of Elmer Fudd could bulge out of his head once he found out he’d been tricked by that twicky wabbet. On last year’s ‘Split’, they came tantalising close to a completely enthralling sound, and on ‘Soft Focus’, they have achieved it.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the blame lies for this newfound boldness. Does it lie in the production, which is just spot-on perfect, layered sounds that put the listener in a cocoon of ease? Or does it get pushed towards the newfound confidence that seems to have been found by the singers, and their lyrics? Whereas ‘Split’ was soaked in self-defeat, ‘Soft Focus’ points to a newfound light and, (Jesus, I can’t believe I’m saying this) hope.
Now, I don’t mean hope in the Hillsong sense. But rather, instead of an abandoning of all dreams in the quarry of a quarter life crisis, it feels like the members have evolved into acceptance. What’s more, they remain catchy as ever, perhaps even more so, with the doe-eyed “Deluded”, the shimmering “Head Down”, and the mope-pop sheen and sensual trumpet indulgences of “Went Out”. I’m alone in a dark room at university, and I still can’t stop bopping my head.
But really, the main point of ‘Soft Focus’ is how the crevices of the album are as essential to the records overall shape and substance, much like a Snickers bar. This album will fill you up with the sheer density and diversity of the music, which can only be described as talented as fuck. From the glistening “Sharps And Taylors” and “Still Stuck Out Here”, which are more soothing than a whole case of Strepsils, to the cartoonish pop of “Deluded”, and heart-in-throat, lip-biting beauty of “Charter Towers”, The Ocean Party showcase their musical talents more expressively before.
As always, an Ocean Party record moulds itself quietly into perfection. Despite Australia owning a rich well of guitar bands with a scholarship at pop school, it’s The Ocean Party that feels like they’ve graduated at the top of their class. Although The Ocean Party don’t have the same international/hype prescence of Dick Diver and Twerps, ‘Soft Focus’ seems like it would be the most likely spiritual contender to a Go-Betweens album like “16 Lovers Lane”. Having built themselves up to such an overwhelmingly heartfelt presence as they have here, it’s hard to imagine The Ocean Party not garnering the recognition they deserve soon.
The Ocean Party play a sneaky show at Goodgod this Thursday (6 November) supporting Shocking Pinks, before rocking up at The Lansdowne on the 28th to play a launch show. After listening to a record like that, you’d have to be Scrooge to not want to get around this band as hard as possible.