“A year at home has left our hands too weak, to grasp at what was coming next,” frontman Josh Lit sings in Phases of the Moon, the opening track on Oliver Future‘s first album in fourteen years, streaming at Bandcamp. “A year at home has left my eyes too dim to see the shadows on the wall.” How appropriate for a band named Oliver Future (say it slowly).
Meanwhile, his brother Noah plays sinuous, keening leads over a stately. late Beatlesque sway, up to a point where all hell breaks loose.
What’s happening here, and with more and more music that’s starting to trickle out, is that artists are wise to the 2020 totalitarian takeover and they’re not happy about it. Like so many albums of recent months, the group recorded this one by exchanging files over the web. Prediction: that meme’s going to be over soon, and we’re going to see bands and artists head back to the studio and the stage with a vengeance. Producer Adam Lasus deserves immense credit for making the record sound as contiguous as it does.
The second track is Flattened, which wouldn’t be out of place on a mid-80s Kinks album, bright guitars over techy new wave keys. “It still feels like the end of days…breathe in, cash out, such a precious thing to waste,” Josh muses.
Bassist Jesse Ingalls’ incisive piano punches over a brisk, tensely pulsing new wave beat in I Can’t Take It, The Great Conjunction – a reference to the epic astrology that began in the fall of 2020 and subsequently? – is the album’s most epic track. With the ensuing loopiness and squall, it’s akin to what Genesis might have sounded like if Peter Gabriel had stayed in that band into the 80s.
With its brooding litany of loaded imagery, Short On Miracles is a psych-folk shuffle in a plastic costume. A rich web of chiming guitars – Noah Lit and Sam Raver – fuels Race to the Moon Again. rising to a funky intensity and back. “Dark as the times that we’re trapped in, over to soon, long live the worst in us all, race to the moon.”
They reprise the theme over a reggae-tinged beat with Race to the Moon Again, Again: “Exhausted probability, is there anybody out there?” Lit wants to know. A jagged approximation of poppy 80s Bowie, All We’ve Lost is a sobering look at where we are now, “Knowing that normal will never be the same.” The hope, obviously, is that the new society we’re working on won’t be a place where “they shut down all the bars, quiet crept in louder than the wind.”
The album’s final cut is Open Ended Spring: “We knows the rules of the day, keeping the wolves at bay,” Lit asserts over steady fingerpicked acoustic guitar before the dystopian vocoder chorus kicks in. He knows this ordeal probably isn’t over yet. Crank this up and get some long overdue validation: in its relentlessly catchy, smartly provocative and quirky way, this is one of the best albums of 2022 so far.