This has been such an awful year for so many reasons, but such a stellar one for indie album releases. I truly believe I have heard more exceptional albums since Jan 1st of 2020 then I have in the past 5 years. It’s like the musical community had a premonition we would have extra free time on our hands and all be in dire need of some sonic therapy, artistic meanderings or at least top-up our day-old-bread playlists. Nashville, Tennessee’s, ØZWALD and their upcoming release, Head Movies is poised.
Set for a June 18th release, this album is a collection of indie smart-rock, spanning the bygone days through the greatest of modern indie releases, but never losing sight of the sounds and flavor that is the ØZWALD project. (yes, I did my due diligence and googled how to make that Ø with the line through it, the band name forever on my virtual clipboard as a copy and paste for the remainder of this review) I digress. I was introduced to ØZWALD when a fellow reviewer wrote an accurate and intriguing piece on the single, Manzanita. A spot-on review, my interest was piqued.
I listened to Manzanita a few times and it didn’t take long to realize the prowess of Steve Stout and Jason Wade, ØZWALD songwriters and contributing members. Clarity of idea, exceptional song-smithing, post-Beatle flavoring, expert production to boot, what could possibly be wrong with this? I was then sent the “secret” link to the full album and have been an audio voyeur ever since. Do you fancy George Harrison guitar? Not those guitar parts. The slide stuff on his solo albums. Head Movies is dripping with it, and it’s not disingenuous either, completely new ideas, original phrasing, just a continuation of the goodness that made those albums so sweet and savory. These are the tones and phrasing that make grown men weep, at the very least, your arm hair is at attention.
Listen to ØZWALD’s Head Movies exclusively on FTLOB today!
ØZWALD’s upcoming release is steeped in vintage Wilco, ELO, Harrison, Fleet Foxes, etc. It’s organic, but mixed with modern electronica and appropriate effects, everything this reviewer could hope for in an album release; it’s lyrically based, well-penned and notably apparent the amount of time and effort put forth in creating an album like this.
Sonically, Head Movies is boxy, almost low-fi at times, but in an album-serving manor, it helps set the tone for the collection. This music yearns for this sort of treatment, it fits within the constraints and confines of the actual instrumentation of the project, nothing out of gamut. Understated verses and commercial choruses merge for the sake of song balance, yin and yang, socks and sandals, etc. It’s all happening here with the result being exceptional gestalt.
Head Movies is an album you can get lost in, it’s introspective, supported by its extraordinary album art. It’s a double album worth of material, packed into 12 songs, please hear my plea. Quite a feat, and from what I hear, this a side project… A side to what I need to find out? ØZWALD are purveyors of reverb-laden, calming vocals in both the lead and harmony rolls, again, it’s the sum of the parts here. There is no superstar, just superstar vocals mixed and presented in the most pleasing fashion. I was an immediate fan of where the vocals sat in the mix for this album, they were woven into the recording, a part of the band, not the Vegas mix you sometimes get from engineers missing the point.
Stand-out songs for me on Head Movies are Manzanita, La Tempestad and Scattered. ØZWALD does that ethereal, non linear, harmony vocal-break thing like Waffle House does 3 a.m. breakfast. It’s quite a treat for the senses and medicinal for the troubled soul.
Do grab this album from Allswell Records, it’s another bright light in 2020.