Ought - More Than Any Other Day | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
Ought - More Than Any Other Day - By Volume

Ought

More Than Any Other Day

Intimate, yet still immense, this is an album that forges true emotional connection.

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Author: on June 4, 2014
8.5
Constellation Records

It’s never absolutely certain that a band is good when you fall in love with them at first sight. I knew I was going to love More Than Any Other Day approximately three seconds into its lede, “Pleasant Heart”. Strains of rock such as post-punk and math rock are areas I’ve approached from the peripheral leaves and branches rather than trunks and roots, particularly the latter, which I first encountered in the form of Battles. It might be in the same way you subconsciously seek glimpses of your first love in new partners, but in those opening notes, I heard Battles. All I’d known about Ought before listening was that this was their first album for avant-entrepreneurs Constellation Records. I heard Battles, and like a switch in a circuit of dormant lightbulbs that longed to light up, that relationship was rekindled something fierce. The buzz of those sounds ran through me as the record played, though the second song didn’t sound much similar to Battles at all, and Ought increasingly headed in a direction away from what drew me in. Nevertheless, by some supernatural phenomenon, that feeling was still as exhilarating by the close. That’s when I could be sure of it: Ought are a damn good band.

Ought’s strength lies in their ability to establish the most direct of connections with listeners. Part of this is down to how well More Than Any Other Day has been recorded: there’s a closeness, the kind of intimacy that floods and fills the space it’s unleashed in. Their sound is quaking and quivering with life, the record’s vocals and instrumentation executed with conviction and intent. The appropriately-named Tim Keen drums with a sense of urgency throughout, especially on the math-ier joints like “The Weather Song”, and the guitar rarely sounds half assed despite its slacker tendencies. It’s Tim Beeler’s vocals that really do it, though; you’ll come back for those. When he sings, and talks, and barks into the microphone, he’s offering advice, giving commands, taking classes. And they’re for us; as “Gemini” grows into itself, Beeler righteously declares, “I retain the right to be disgusted by life / I retain the right to be in love with everything in sight”, and it strikes me that my reaction was not that he does but rather, we do. Such is the strength of the bond Ought build with their audience — a link that bridges the gap both ways, and if Beeler is growing then so am I. Rarely do lyrics resonate with the spirit as instantly and intensely as those words at the beginning of that closing track.

The talk-sing vocal delivery isn’t ground-breaking: it doesn’t conceal its traces of Talking Heads and Television, and there are other bands thriving on the hallmark too such as Parquet Courts. Still, Beeler’s voice stands out. His ramblings aren’t conversational at all; in fact they lie somewhere between inspirational sermons and life-lesson lectures. It’s the kind of speak you get from university professors who hold some belief in really mentoring their students beyond a mere curriculum. If John Keating fronted a band and played a TEDx gig, you wouldn’t get something that different from More Than Any Other Day. Influence of academia is principally glaring on almost-title track “Today More Than Any Other Day” where Beeler wheels off with, “The name of this song is Today, More Than Any Other Day, parts four through forty-three, so open up your textbooks, or a magazine, or a novel, any kind of reading material will do, okay, here we go!” Beeler’s one of the cool teachers, and like the professor framework we’ve got going here, Ought carry similar faults; they’re occasionally guilty of wallowing in themselves a bit too much, with “Forgiveness” betraying hints of self-indulgence. Often enough, More Than Any Other Day finds its tracks inevitably swelling as they develop, as if the band can’t control it, and twists and turns can be spotted from a distance. Regardless, these caveats are part of who Ought are and it’s clear they can’t help but balloon like this, channeling and translating that rise through my own self eventually.

Even disregarding the role of the Quebec students’ general strike as the band’s catalyst and muse, Ought have conspicuous ties to a generation of dissatisfied students and graduates. There’s an air of young adult defiance about them, so set and absolute in their world-view attestations, although it’d be a mistake to put that down to naivety of anything outside the academic bubble. They see the outside world as a whole, and they’re spirited enough to reject its values, to call it on its bullshit. More Than Any Other Day is hardly a negative record, though nor is it one of nostalgic punk protest; Ought seem to siphon all the silver linings they can and turn their grievances into something galvanising, inspirational and wholesomely positive. “Around Again” sees Beeler tell us all that “We have reached the intermission, and the Lord is in attendance, and we can ask him all our questions. / I know I will”. That small clause at the end, that superfluous addition to his message, is Beeler’s wide-eyed, open-palmed sincerity coming through, and it offers solidarity to those following his message. As Ought find themselves speaking as a shepherd to the displaced and the desperate, there’s never any suggestion the band are on a platform above the rest. They’re of the people, and the people are their pulpit.

It’s not just the first track that Ought have in common with Battles. Another trait both bands bear is that whilst they don’t hide the influx of other bands that have amalgamated to form their own sound, they’ve somehow effortlessly forged their own identity. That their voice is so discernible and their bond with the listener so personal is nothing short of a triumph. I believe in More Than Any Other Day, and I believe in Ought. They speak to me face to face, eye to eye, never coddling and always forthright. I believe in this album, because it believes in me.

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