Album Review: Oh Wonder – Oh Wonder

Oh Wonder, a London-based duo, has one of the most unique debut stories of all time. In September of 2014, Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht set out to write, record, and release one song a month for a year. The two pulled it off, releasing their debut self-titled album in early September 2015. The band has quite the presence online, too – they’re considered a viral sensation. And after they sold out shows in Paris, Amsterdam, New York City, and Los Angeles (all before releasing their album or ever performing live), we think they could get pretty big too.

The album cover.
The album cover.

The first track, Livewire, begins with piano and the duo singing together. Touching on a few themes seen in dream pop, the music also has hints of R&B in it. The lyrics are deep and emotional, asking “Can you hear me falling down, down?”. The two have incredible voices, as well – while many bands have extraordinary music, but ordinary vocals, Oh Wonder seems to be talented in all areas. Body Gold, the second song, begins with the quiet sounds of rain, and the ever-present vocal duet that makes them unique. The vocals have a strange quality in this one, and it almost sounds as though West is singing through an old phone receiver. Technicolor Beat starts off differently, with scattered fragments of vocals layered and played on a loop, before adding in a quiet beat. Although slow and gentle, the music is strangely alluring and captivating. Towards the end of the song, backing vocals make their appearance, repeating one lyric while the duo continue with their part in the forefront. Drive, the next song, has stranger rhythms, and seems to change tempo sporadically in the beginning. Strings are added in this track, and what sounds like either violins or violas play along with the melody of the voices. Lose It, the next song, starts with rain again, as well as piano. However, the start is lacking the ethereal sounds in the background, making the song feel oddly empty until they reappear several seconds in. The song seems to be written around a relationship, proclaiming “Make a spark/break the dark/find a light with me” and “who we are/chasing stars/won’t you dance with me?”. The song is sweet and melancholic, and finishes with a slow fadeout. The Rain, the ninth track, starts with a slightly staticky, classic sounding symphony piece, before going into the style that makes Oh Wonder who they are. Dazzle, the next track, has syncopated beats and a brighter sound than the rest. While most tracks have a soft, almost fuzzy sound, Dazzle has a clear, bright sound that matches the beat. Plans, the last track, starts with very prominent beats, before going into a slow, pretty song with impressively high notes. The lyrics seem to capture the pair’s plans – and certainly, that’s where the title came from. It’s very sweet and slightly melancholic to hear the two sing “but I’ve got plans to get to you/you know, don’t you know/gonna build a paper plane and float to you…” and then, “we’ll be scraping the skies with our fingertips/screaming ‘this is the life, we were born for this”.

Oh Wonder.

Although the album’s creation story is unique and the music astounding, we have to, well, wonder… What will they do next? Will they duplicate the creative process seen in their self-titled? Or will they take a different direction? Either way, keep an eye out for this up-and-coming duo, Oh Wonder.

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