Ocean Alley: Lonely Diamond (United Music Group) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, August 10th, 2020  

Ocean Alley

Lonely Diamond

UNIFIED Music Group

Jul 07, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Australian rockers Ocean Alley broke through with 2018’s Chiaroscuro, introducing wider audiences to its vintage blend of surf, psych rock, and blues. That album earned the band popular and critical acclaim in its native Australia, netting a platinum-selling single with “Confidence.” Lonely Diamond plays in a similar lane but with an expanded emotional scope, going between despondent ballads, Spaghetti Western instrumentals, beach-ready psych rock, and driving hard rock. When the band commits to that diversity the album shines. 

The album opens and closes on instrumentals, which are some of the strongest moments on the record. The opener, “Dahlia,” begins as a spacey psychedelic journey before crashing into a riffing hard rock instrumental. Meanwhile, “Luna” locks into a moonlit Spaghetti Western groove creating a cinematic jam session to bring the album to a close. The band draws the listeners into these soundscapes, letting each of the six members bring a unique element to the track without being married to the verse-chorus format. 

The band’s exploratory approach works well on tracks such as “Puesta de Sol.” The band tries its hand at a dusty murder ballad here, introducing the old-school Western motifs that return on “Luna.” The conceit also gives it a greater lyrical heft than the band’s generally chilled vibe. Similarly, the bluesy hard rock on “Hot Chicken” and the reflective piano ballad, “All Worn Out,” show the band’s laid back musical wanderings at their best. “All Worn Out” incorporates guest musicians especially well. Mournful cello and piano set the mood before the sax solo draws the instrumental back up, putting an optimistic coda on a downcast track. While some songs, such as “Tombstone,” would fit well on Chiaroscuro, the band’s willingness to explore brings out it’s best qualities. 

Unfortunately, though the band’s relaxed vibe and beachy sound keep the album light and playful, that same summery energy can blunt Lonely Diamond’s strong points. The harder edges on “Hot Chicken” or “Way Down” lose their punch when put next to some of the other material. The middle portion especially falls victim to this. “Stained Glass,” “Lonely Diamond,” and “Wet Dreams” all feature the band’s signature psychedelic grooves but the instrumentals tend to meander, drawing the pace of the album down to a crawl. The band describes the writing process for the record in the same terms most would describe a leisurely walk—without an agenda or expectation, merely taking the paths that came before them. While this does give the record an easygoing energy, it can also result in songs that lack direction. 

Lonely Diamond, at its best, creates an atmospheric journey from floating cosmic psychedelia down to a rustic finish straight out of a classic movie. Like many journeys, it does lose its way in the midsection, but Ocean Alley breathes enough life into the mix of vintage styles that it never stops being a trip worth taking. Listeners hoping for a relaxing summer escape won’t be disappointed. (www.oceanalley.com.au)

Author rating: 7/10

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