London, England’s indie pop duo, Oh Wonder, have released their brand new album Ultralife— the follow up album to their 2015 self titled release. Ultralife thrusts Oh Wonder to the forefront of their genre. It brings forth the elements of Oh Wonder’s music that made them so appealing to the online community as they released one song a month for a year leading up to the release of their debut release. Traces of minimalist pop, as some blogs have described it, are certainly found throughout Ultralife but it’s the instances on the record where songs are built from the ground up for the listener that make them even more memorable.
The album’s opening track, “Solo”, introduces the ground-up approach to songwriting. The intro contains samples of the streets of London and New York where the duo wrote the album. “Solo” is a perfect introductory track to the record. It acts as the bridge between the Oh Wonder sound that original fans grew to adore while paving the way towards an Oh Wonder sound that is rich in confidence and audio production experimentation.
The first single and title track, “Ultralife” is exactly the confidence I describe. The confidence is demonstrated through the strong songwriting that has always been there but is now backed by a new sense of playfulness. The energy felt while listening to “Ultralife” both in its recorded form and in a live environment show Oh Wonder has an even greater captivating effect on listeners. Oh Wonder is no longer just the artist you may listen to “feel” but they can also be that artist you find an upbeat Summer anthem from. The duo shows this versatility throughout the entire record.
Songs like “All About You” and “Bigger Than Love” exemplify the ways in which Oh Wonder have reached a broader sense of appeal to larger audiences. The introduction of live drums and more string instruments create an even larger sense of seriousness in their music that even the most harsh critics will warm up to. However, it’s songs like “My Friends” and “Waste” that bring things full circle for listeners.
In Oh Wonder’s newly released documentary, Ultralife: Making of the Album, Anthony West states, “There’s a fine balance between doing something you’ve never done but also staying true and realizing that what you’ve done in the past isn’t bad.”
Ultralife expresses elements of sadness, hope, excitement, and relief — all familiar feelings from their debut. Ultralife is the perfect marriage between the traditional Oh Wonder sounds fans have become attached to and the arrival of even brighter, more vibrant soundscapes that will make new listeners hooked within seconds.