It’s safe to say that 2018 has been on a role. Australia’s artists are producing some of the best we’ve seen. It’s still early days for Sydney’s Ocean Alley, but they may have topped the list with second album Chiaroscuro.
The album follows through from the excitement of singles ‘Overgrown’, ‘The Comedown’ and funk jam ‘Confidence’. A listener could be forgiven for the assumption this record couldn’t get any better than its leading singles. But they would be wrong, It’s much better.
Chiaroscuro starts showcasing a more psychedelic, bluesy side of the group's sound with ‘Corduroy’. The same approach continues with ‘The Comedown’. ‘Happy Sad’ powers along it’s driving bass line, laidback drumbeat and echoed vocals. It’s a significant moment.
The aforementioned funk of ‘Confidence’ is the perfect single. The kind that has you singing and nodding the head from start to finish. ‘Knees’ takes a step back to deliver a softer, slower ballad. It displays the powerful vocals of frontman Baden who belts out its memorable chorus with composite ease.
The second half of Chiaroscuro returns to the groovier, upbeat sound of record’s past. Long-time set opener ‘Overgrown’ courses of a familiar and bouncy riff. ‘Flowers and Booze’ keeps the momentum up with a Santana vibe mixed with the distinctive Ocean Alley feel.
An unexpected ending to the album comes with the incredibly raw and stripped-back sound of ‘Man You Were Looking For’. Set to a single acoustic and two vocals, the intimate original seems odd. But none-the-less it’s a perfect way to conclude.
Ocean Alley has perfected their latest album. Blending surf rock, psychedelia, reggae, funk and blues Chiaroscuro expresses a diversity of sound. Ocean Alley’s second is an outstanding album with a far-reaching appeal. It’s their best record yet.
Words by Chris Kafritsas