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  • R’nR With Rylo

Spin #43: Ocean Alley : Chiaroscuro


Welcome to R'nR with Rylo on this fine Sunday, a very Christmassy Sunday to be exact. I hope that you are all enjoying the time with your families and friends. You are probably feeling full after a giant Christmas meal and ready for an afternoon nap. Before you do, make sure you get comfy so you can read along or spin the wonderful second album, Chiaroscuro by Ocean Alley.

Our 43rd Spin will be played in our front room on the Audio Technica turntable (AT-LP60XBT) and the impressive sounding Marshall Woburn II speaker. I have heard this record through our loungeroom set up and headphones so this time I want to test out the Marshall. Plus this album has such a good feeling whilst listening along, it makes you feel good and that is the most important thing.

Image: Lachlan Galbraith, Tim O'Brien , Mitch Galbraith, Angus Goodwin, Baden Donegal, Nic Blom


If you had to mention a band that has had a meteoric rise in such a small amount of time, I would say Ocean Alley. I know other bands like Ghost and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have exploded in recent years but look at what Ocean Alley have achieved online and you will be pleasantly surprised. The release of their second album, Chiaroscuro is also their introduction to the world - I know that I hadn't heard of them prior to my friend Jazz showing me. I remember thinking that they sounded a lot like Kings of Leon on their song, 'The Comedown'. At least that is what initially popped into my head whilst listening to Ocean Alley for the first time.

This is one band that I will take Night Kat Kiz to go see live when they tour in either Wollongong or Sydney again. To say that Chiaroscuro is a good album doesn't seem to give it the credit it is due. I mean in 2018 it was voted as number two on Triple J's top 10 of the year and had six, yes six singles released. That is exactly half of the album that was released as singles which is incredible. Those songs being, 'Overgrown', 'Happy Sad', 'Knees', 'Bones', 'Confidence' and 'The Comedown'. I've placed LP1 onto the turntable and pressed the start button to start spinning this one with our kids running around enjoying their presents. Before researching into this album, I was pronouncing the title wrong and it sounded more like those delicious cinnamon sticks (churros). I have since learnt that Chiaroscuro is "The treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting / an effect of contrasted light and shadow".

The start of first track 'Corduroy' on Side A of LP1 begins with a sultry and engrossing guitar solo before lead singer Baden Donegal brings us into the world of Ocean Alley. This album is super jammy and is exactly the feeling we want you all to experience when you find some time to rest and relax (R'nR). Donegal sings, "Well this is just a space town, soon we gotta come down" and the rest of the band decide to show off their talents. It is dark and perfectly chosen as the opener before second song and mega hit, 'The Comedown' begins.

Now the bassline on this one by Nic Blom is coming through my speaker so clearly and deeply. Not enough to make the house shake or anything but damn is it hypnotic. This was the first track that I heard of Ocean Alley and since then, Night Kat Kiz and I have added everything they've ever made to our growing record collection. I do feel that this was the moment the boys from the Northern Beaches of Sydney said, "We are Ocean Alley and we want you to come into our world". 'The Comedown' is such a easy track to connect with and the guitar work by Angus Goodwin, Donegal and Mitch Galbraith really make you feel as if you are sitting by the poolside at a resort with a nice drink in hand.

Next track and my personal favourite is the melancholy loaded song called 'Happy Sad'. Have you ever felt that feeling? It's such a weird one because it's basically when you are thinking of something that could have been a happy moment, but the fact that it can no longer happen makes you sad. I really like the slowness of the first few tracks on Side A and I remembered to play this one at 45rpm, unlike the first time I played this. I do find myself singing along to this track when it comes on , "Well It could be good, Well it could be great, well it could be good, but everybody needs someone to hate". The ending of this song with O'Brien keeping the tempo behind the kit as Donegal sings, "Hate me, Crave me, Hate me, Crave me" is worth checking out.

Time to flip LP1 over and drop the stylus on Side B so you can hear the wonderful song and hit single - 'Confidence'. It is hell-a-funky and will have you bopping around the room. Our kids have been so good today and I loved seeing their little faces as they opened their Christmas presents this morning. We have the empty stockings (large ones for the kids) laying next to the tree overnight and when they wake up in the morning, Night Kat Kiz and I notice that Santa has filled them up with the kids presents. They see the magic happen and I want our son and daughter to hold on to that feeling as long as they can. Last year our son (K) was starting to understand what was going on, but this year he has been sneaking down the hallway waiting for Santa and wanting a Christmas book read to him every night. Speaking of 'Confidence', this song ended up being #1 on Triple J's Hottest 100 too, so that tells you how big of a song this one was (and still is).

Second track on Side B of LP1 is the lighter sounding 'Knees'. This one instantly draws my wife and I in and I'm enjoying following along with the lyrics on the sheet. "Daydreamer, walking through the clouds it's a screamer. Falling from the sky is lots of steamers, It's time to grow up and be a leader, leader, leader". The track builds to its finale with Donegal finding himself singing without the band playing.

The acoustic sounds of next track 'Rage' start to play and provide contrast between the previous song with it's style and moodiness. If you follow along with the lyrics you will see just how sad and dark this track can be. I always take notice when this song comes on the record player because there is basically 3 minutes of sombre tone before an awesome guitar solo and then the song finishes. Time to take the LP off the turntable and place LP2 on.

'She's Always Right' would be that song that comes on live or at a club that makes you get up and dance. Definitely one that you'd look at your partner, lock eyes and say telepathically, "We dancin'". It has a Transylvania style riff that doesn't feel out of place at all. The vocals of Donegal sounds distant before he sounds clearer as he sings, "Cause I don't wanna be the one to explain. That maybe, for your safety, that she's always right".

Second track on Side C is the horror movie inspired (obviously) track called 'Frostbite'. The bass coming through the speaker has such clarity and good to hear that every band member shines throughout this one. Before you realise because you're probably having Christmas lunch microsleeps, massive song 'Overgrown' comes through the speaker. I'll have to listen to Ocean Alley's newer albums in more depth (I know Night Kat Kiz has and she can't get enough of them). I like the Stevie Ray Vaughan style closing to this one with the intricate guitar solo.

'Bones' is a strong contender for standout track on LP2 for me and you can hear the passion in Donegal's vocals, "Well I feel it, well I feel you rattling through my bones and I want you, well I wanna see you without any clothes. No warning, cold morning and I'm out on my own. This feeling, this feeling won't go away". If you listen carefully, you can picture legendary vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson giving everyone good vibes.

Side D keeps rolling along with the salsa/samba flavoured track called 'Flowers & Booze'. Another one to get up and dance along with and I can imagine our son (K) grooving his way around the house to this one. He has toddled off to play with his toys again. Not exactly the same but if you enjoy this style that the boys are playing, you need to hear the new Mars Volta album.

Last track on the album before we go and wind down on Christmas night is the slow ballad, 'Man You Were Looking For. Completely different feeling on this track compared to the song before. The stylus is slowly coming to the dead wax centre of the record but the production and clarity on this track stands out. I think it's because it is so stripped back. Donegal sings and the only other sound is that of an acoustic guitar. The chorus comes in with members of the band singing harmonies. I think they picked the track listing well and to have this one close out the album makes me as the listener want to spin it again straight away.

Thank you for coming along on the musical journey with my little family and I hope that you enjoyed our 43rd Spin - Chiaroscuro by Ocean Alley. If you find yourself looking for something to read or needing some inspiration for a new style of music, come back next Sunday. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas for 2022 and hopefully next year we can all achieve our best selves.

Until our next Spin, be Kind to people who like to scratch records (I know, it's hard) and be Kind to your Wax!