Oceanator: Nothing’s Ever Fine (Polyvinyl) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, May 24th, 2024  

Oceanator

Nothing’s Ever Fine

Polyvinyl

Apr 06, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


On Nothing’s Ever Fine’s infectiously upbeat lead single, “Bad Brain Daze,” Oceanator (aka Elise Okusami) provides an apt description of living with depression: “there’s a fog on the horizon/I can’t see but I feel it comin’ on/drops like a bomb.” Eschewing a traditional guitar solo for the rippin’ sax of labelmate and ska punk legend Jeff Rosenstock, it’s a punk rock tune with the flavors of old school rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes, the best way to face despair is to dance it away.

Okusami’s second full-length under the Oceanator moniker shares a lot in common with the first, 2020’s Things I Never Said: grungy aesthetics, punk rock energy, unpretentious poetry (you don’t have to be a Shakespeare major to understand her lingo), a focus on mental health. Though mainly written pre-pandemic, it certainly still feels like an album designed for the moment, caught between hope and hopelessness, jams for the end of the world and all that jazz. But for as explicitly apocalyptic as Things I Never Said is, it ends with the cautiously optimistic “Sunshine” where Okusami sings, “Sometimes it gets me down but I usually come around, I’m okay on my own.”

That could be the thesis for Nothing’s Ever Fine. It’s an album of variation, told from the perspective of someone suffering from depression and homesickness, of yearning nostalgia for simpler times before the inevitable diaspora of childhood friends leads into unforgiving adulthood. One moment, Okusami conceptualizes herself as a “Nightmare Machine,” dwelling on the horrific possibilities that exist on the periphery of day to day life over a dreamy haze of reverb washed guitars. Another, she’s playing exciting pop-punk while reflecting on the simple pleasures shared with her friends during their last summer together, from being “in a Honda Accord driving not to be bored” to enjoying a “cherry coke and French fries.” Whereas “Beach Days (Alive Again)” is a straight-forward summer jam, “From the Van” chugs along choppy power chords before exploding into a sea of choral “ahhs” and instrumental layers.

The credits scream DIY project. The whole album was engineered, mixed, and mastered by Okusami’s brother, Mike Okusami, with critically acclaimed indie rocker Bartees Strange as the only outside-the-family co-producer. And yet, for such an in house production, the result is remarkably hi-fi. The 11 tracks all sound very organic and alive. And the guitar tone is killer, too. “Stuck” in particular, with its gelatinous, layered riff, sounds heavier than just about anything permeating the indie rock scene.

Her compositions vary structurally. Sometimes they build sturdy foundations for amazing payoff (see the society collapsing road trip anthem “Solar Flares”). Other times, they bask in tranquility, such as on “Summer Rain,” a mellow meditation that shares musical ancestry with Pavement’s “Father to a Sister of Thought.” It’s one of the more poetic moments too: “The water falls steadily/Like a westbound train/The calm it brings to my mind/I can’t explain.”

Nothing’s Ever Fine begins and ends with the same triumphant Godspeed You! Black Emperor-esque roar; a thunderous instrumental collage that contrasts in sound to the stripped back “Sunshine,” but reflects its optimism. After an album’s worth of struggle and reflection, it’s an affirmation of hope. Maybe we’ll be okay after all. (www.oceanator.surf)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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