Micah Visser’s Ok Night wallops the soft spot I have for quiet emo music. Dashboard Confessional, early City & Colour albums, that Plain White Tee’s song that everybody loved for a while, these were all part of the soundtrack to my teenage emotions. What grabs me so much about Ok Night’s emo tendencies after all these years of trying to get away from the genre, though much of it is probably nostalgia, is Visser’s approach to songwriting. The usually limited use of language that fill much of the music mentioned above is not the case with Ok Night as this young Winnipegger doesn’t fear manipulating his words to tell his vivid stories.
Few moments in his LP are filled with long instrumental breaks, repetitive and simplistic chorus, or gaps filled in with la, la, las. Delivered in a reedy voice that seemingly breaks with every word, Visser packs each song with lengthy verses, as if reciting page after page of journal entries. The raw, often un-filtered, lyrics create vivid stills from Visser’s life – a freezing New Year’s Eve in Winnipeg (“Lucky”), an anxiety-filled – probably drunken – party (“Sad Mammal Documentaries”), a first kiss on her couch (“Perpetual Motion”). Ok Night is a chronicle of the dramatic shift between adolescence and adulthood.
“I’d love to stay with you on the fringes of my youth. Safe and sound, feet firmly on the ground,” sings Visser in the opening track “New Moon.” A track that slowly builds from a sparse combination of electric guitars and drums to an eventually boisterous outburst around the four minute mark, “New Moon” grasps at innocence before tipping to the inevitable motions of growing up. In “Perpetual Motion,” one of the most instrumentally mature sounding of the LP, this realization of adolescence ending is further explored when Visser muses on losing friends to the great changes that come with growing up.
Amongst the anxiety (one that “controls” Visser in the urgently synth-pulsing “I Watched Them All Go”), reflections on youth, and self-hatred – all feelings that make up the last years of high school – two tracks standout the most. The melodious quality of “Sad Mammal Documentaries” is both surprising as it is a relief. The clean guitar picking at the beginning ushers in a fuller pop-rock composition a few bars later, concealing the apprehension of the lyrics themselves. Not unlike teenage-hood itself, the “cool” exterior hides a trouble narrator.
“Caroline Says III” is a quiet and creaky piano driven song that hosts my favourite lyrical moment. In its chorus, perfectly joined by Chantel Emond (who can be heard throughout the LP), Visser sings: “If you would’ve said that all of that was over, I would have believed you. God knows I want it to. But you just stood there in the kitchen, a portrait of disappointment, good think you’re an artist. Good think I’m a coward.” A subtle and emotional lyrical moment that’s just one stray stroke in this haunting sketch of youth.
Top Tracks: “Sad Mammal Documentaries” ; “Caroline says III”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)