Sunday, June 07, 2015

OK Ghosts

OK Go, the alt-rock band best known for their viral music videos, released their fourth album late last year, Hungry Ghosts. And while it's possible that none of their albums is as clever as their videos, I've still been mostly entertained by this one.

With Hungry Ghosts, the band is definitely pushing for a more polished electronic sound than the sort of "garage band" vibe that defined their first big hit, "Here It Goes Again." Various tracks on the new album use 80s video game samples, manipulated vocals, and loud synth leads. Actual bass guitar is nowhere to be heard on many of the tracks; presumably, the band's bass player is switching to keyboards for much of this album. Sound layering is also a common technique, with many of the tracks building up one brick at time from simple vocals and a single instrument into a heavy sonic wall.

Still, the songs don't all embrace a single style as such. Indeed, many songs seem inspired by perhaps one artist in particular, as filtered through OK Go's sensibilities. There's "The Writing's on the Wall," with a hook many have compared to The Cure. There's a hint of a more pop-like version of Nine Inch Nails in "Obsession." There's a disco vibe in "I Won't Let You Down." And things go a bit Prince on "Another Set of Issues," thanks to lead singer Damian Kulash's airy falsetto.

The album is pretty solid until its last quarter. The final three tracks "take it down a notch" -- or, rather, several notches. The songs lose more and more energy and spirit, until culminating in an actual "Lullaby" that truly could put you to sleep. Still, the nine preceding tracks, all "good" or better, many bouncy and catchy, make for an album that's pretty solid overall.

Though chances are you've seen the videos for "The Writing's on the Wall" and "I Won't Let You Down," you might think about picking up the music too. I give Hungry Ghosts a B+.

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