reviewed by Michael Veenstra
Hamilton’s Ophelia Syndrome aren’t the biggest name in the city’s booming “art is the new steel” movement, but they definitely deserve more recognition than they’ve been getting to this point. The newest release – April’s All Things Forgotten – is an interesting collection of folk-pop, rock, and jazz-inspired tracks that gains momentum with the listener as it progresses. This record really is something where you’re in for it all if you’re in for any.
“Passing Time” is lovely and rhythmic, with a piano hook that really holds the song together. It’s a bit simple musically, but it really doesn’t matter too much. “Heroes and Villains” is where you get your first look at how Catherine North Studios factors in on the album. There is a great level of production – not too much or too little – that makes the song well constructed vocally, hinging on a melodic chorus and blend of musical genres. It’s rather simpler songwriting than that of true singer-songwriter folk or alt-rock/pop, though you hardly notice amidst the vocal talents of Deanna Wells.
“Today” begins with a bluesy piano hook, but the song really travels downhill from there. The voices do all the legwork, making the lyrics secondary. Fortunately for All Things Forgotten the vocal showcase is really worth listening to all on its own.
Following a short interlude, “As Long as There’s a Fight” is quite jazzy and smoky, a clever change in pace and style from the first three tracks. “Don’t Care” also starts strong but the pace starts to lag, from the strong and rhythmic opening. There are more vocal acrobatics – a great showcase of range and talent – and the song’s instrumentation and arrangement is full but appropriate, letting the vocals do the work.
“Glue” slows down and re-introduces the strong jazz influence that Ophelia Syndrome brings to the table. As the album progresses, I start to question whether some of the stronger songs ought to have been put nearer the beginning of the album to draw the listener in. As All Things Forgotten is, it starts with a bit of whimper and builds into a collection of songs that are much more carefully crafted, with better songwriting, arrangement, and instrumentation. “Glue” features some lovely background vocals, and great arrangement – especially between guitar and piano.
“Fire and Sea” continues to show that Ophelia Syndrome has the ability to write good lyrics, arrange well, and really just get it done musically. The mix is quite clever again, and I can’t stress enough how great a job Catherine North Studios did in putting this album down.
“Long Wait” blends jazz and blues with folk/pop and really falls into the Adele “21” vein of soulful pop/rock. The instrumentation is strong, the lyrics are thoughtful, making it a definite highlight on All Things Forgotten.
“Feet on Ground” shows more musicianship than any other track on the record. The piano lays a good base, and the ancillary instruments are just that – supporting and secondary. The lyrical aspect of “Feet on Ground” is also much more satisfying than that of previous tracks.
All in all, Ophelia Syndrome’s All Things Forgotten is a tough album to categorize or review. The album is not carefully crafted in terms of track order or overall flow, but there are songs that really merit third- and fourth- listenings.
All Things Forgotten is available on Bandcamp
Top Tracks: “Long Wait”; “Feet on Ground”
Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)