Six months ago, Our Lady Peace released their first long-form collection of music in over five years — four songs in an EP, a preview of a full album to come later. After a brief wait, that full album is now here, adding five more songs to the four we’ve already heard. The full album is also known as Somethingness, and it clocks in at just 33 minutes, which doesn’t seem like much given the nearly six year wait. Now, I really liked at least half of the EP. How does the rest of the album fare? Let’s see. My impressions of the previously released songs can be found in the EP post, linked below.
- Head Down: We kick off with pounding drums, chock full of reverb, and a wordless falsetto hook. The chord progression drops briefly into a minor mood, which is always welcome. The vocals are buried a bit into the mix and a steady fuzzy bass drives the verse. 80s-style sharp synths punctuate the verse to add some color. The chorus is rather unremarkable, with Maida’s strained belting not making any kind of notable impact on me. The bass plods and guitars stay sheltered behind it. A piano adds some texture to the latter half of the second verse, before we return to the basic bridge. The bridge takes a interesting turn with a stuttering series of three half-step descending chords, radically changing the feel of the song for a brief moment. It’s not a bad song, it’s just rather unmemorable. Raine Maida’s obviously lost a step on the vocals, but at least he makes good use of falsetto here, and throughout the album. Given how clear his falsetto is in comparison to his normal register, I don’t see why he wouldn’t use it even more.
- Nice to Meet You: Easily my favourite of the Somethingness Vol. 1 EP, and perhaps my favourite OLP song since 2005. See previous post for more.
- Ballad of a Poet: Now hang on a second, a challenger appears! The strength of this song lies in its restraint — it starts with a solo guitar playing an riff, along with blooping echo effects, and a crystal clear synth. Madia’s soft vocals are up front and clean. As the verse goes on, the bass and a kick drum add to a building mix, whose crescendo appears headed to a massive chorus, however it holds back and transitions back into a warmly moving verse. The pre-chorus falsetto makes an awesome ethereal sound in an exceptionally grounded song. The inevitable stadium-filling sound hits by the last chorus, but again, it’s not obnoxious or out of place; it earns its size over the course of the song. We end as we began, with guitar, vocals, and synth. I would say this might be my favourite song of the new five. Right now it’s not quite good enough to top “Nice to Meet You,” but it’s different enough to perhaps pass it depending on my mood.
- Hiding Place For Hearts: A good song! See previous post for more.
- Drop Me In The Water: I feel rather meh about this one. See previous post for more.
- Missing Pieces: Sliding electric guitar and clean acoustic chords here remind me a bit of George Harrison, but that’s about where the similarities end. This is a slow, yet driven song with a twinge of sadness. A plain synth starts to hum steadily in the atmosphere. Vocal rustiness aside, this captures some of the trademark sharp gloom of early-mid OLP. Silence in instrumentation is wielded effectively here as the heavy, hat-filled drums start and stop. There’s another falsetto laden hook, yet I just cannot seem to tire of that sound. Whatever’s gotten into the studio has certainly pushed this band back in the right direction. This song just pushes on and on with interjections of guitar, bass meanders, and vocal flourishes, and I rather love it. It feels modern, clean, and solid. And, despite what I said about previous songs, I think I might actually rank this as the best of the full album. It’s just really good.
- Falling Into Place: It has its moments. See previous post for more.
- Let Me Live Again: Things feel different today. Drop the vocals an octave, and this song (the verses, specifically, compared with “Val Jester“) would almost fit on an early The National record. There’s a lot of space here in the verses, between a multi-tracked set of picked arpeggiated guitars, light drums, and extremely subdued vocals. The choruses explode in a blast of light with strong falsetto vocals, fully overdubbed guitars, and crashing drums. The first is short, but as the second verse concludes, the following full chorus sees us through to the end of the song, more or less. There are chord changes that activate my frisson, albeit briefly. The quick instrumental-ish bridge hides a great sequence of rolling bass riffs beneath its cacophonous vocal cries and guitar. There’s something very 90s about this sound. Not OLP 90s, but somewhere between alternative rock and grunge. In fact, a couple of the chords created between the different guitar riffs match up nicely with the second half of Pearl Jam’s “Black,” to give you an example of where I’m coming from.
- Last Train: We finish off this album with a tremolo guitar and space, for a moment. A dissonant acoustic guitar jumps in and pushes us forward in a choppy rhythm. Bass is steady and unforgiving as tremolo pops in and out throughout the background. The chorus doesn’t get big, but merely changes the flavour with its shifting chords and clashing guitar intervals. The way the vocals keep things moving reminds me a lot of the song “Skin The Rabbit” off the last Dispatch record. On the other hand, the post-chorus falsetto chant reeks of Nirvana. Like the titular train, this song just goes ever forward as it began; after a brief lull with a high-passed bridge, it concludes with another chorus. I’m having flashbacks again to the 90s with this song, but I don’t really know why. It doesn’t sound like anything OLP, and it certainly doesn’t go any farther with the aforementioned Nirvana comparison than a few discrete moments in the vocals. I like it, though.
Even with the full record here, I don’t know what I can add to my already noted thoughts. This is a worthy continuation of an EP that far exceeded (albeit, low) expectations. Of these new five songs, only “Head Down” is one I would consider subpar, and even that isn’t remotely close to as bad as the worst songs the band had produced in the last decade were. That said, I have yet to listen to the whole thing as a complete package. With a reshuffled tracklisting, I cannot yet be sure if it really works as a whole cohesive work. On their own though, these new songs represent the best collection Our Lady Peace has created since probably 2000. There’s no overwhelming nostalgia here, though it has its shining moments — what there is is just a handful of great sounding rock songs. If this sound continues to evolve, I will again be a happy OLP fan.