Wednesday, November 19, 2014

OK Go Hungry Ghosts...The Perfect Break-Up Album????

Discovering Pledge Music has been a pretty good source of new music lately.  I initially found the site not too long ago through following The Zombies on Twitter.  After buying their new album, I perused the Pledge Music site to see what other goodies might be available.  After a little bit of searching I stumbled upon OK Go and their new album Hungry Ghosts.  Now I’m not the biggest fan of OK Go out there, (Not in a bad way, it’s not like I think they’re Nickelback or something) I’ve just never taken the time to get into their music apart from watching their ridiculously amazing videos on YouTube and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to dive in head first.

With any album I review, I try to play the hell out of it without headphones for a while so that I can get a good feel for it before I sit down and write.  What I noticed right off the bat (and liked very much) is how they tastefully weave the use of synthesizers into their brand of rock.  With my attention grabbed from the synth work, I was pretty excited to dive into the rest of the album.

The more I listened, the more I liked this album.  The songs were great, they were texturally interesting, you could sing along to them and I really started to enjoy the album.  By week two, I found myself whistling or humming the songs while I was in a store or doing some other errand.  Where the album got really interesting for me though, was when I plugged the headphones in and took a deeper listen with the lyrics in front of me.  Sonically, the album jumped out in ways that you don’t experience in a car, or if you’re just listening casually.  After you digest everything that’s going on sonically with the phones on and start digging into the lyrics - you come away with totally different perspective on the album. 

That being said  - this might be THE BEST break-up record ever recorded!  Whoever is the chief lyricist here either has a great imagination and can write from different perspectives, or they were going through a serious break-up.  I get that as a listener you can interpret something in a different way that it was intended.  I also understand that the artist could be pulling shit out of their ass, making everything up and I might be reading too much into it - you just never know.  Whatever the case may be, the end result for me felt like whoever wrote this was breaking up, or had someone close to them contemplating suicide or in a rough situation.  Either way - this sounds like a deeply personal album about someone or some event to me.  I could see very easily how if you just broke up with someone or if you’re lonely, this album could be your soundtrack, your bowl of ice cream to get you through it all – it’s that kind of record.

Take a look at some snippets of lyrics from a couple of songs:

“Upside Down”

Looks Like it’s time to decide,
Are you here, are you now, is this it?
All of those selves that you tried,
Wasn’t one of them good enough?

“The Writing’s On The Wall”

The writing’s on the wall, it seems like forever since we had a good day
The Writing’s on the wall, but I just want to get you high tonight
I just wanna see some pleasure in your eyes, some pleasure in your eyes
I just want to get you high,
Even if it’s the last thing that we do together

“Another Set Of Issues”

Now I know you’ve got this whole other set of issues here.
But I can’t let you leave that way, but I can but I can’t let you leave that way, but I can’t let you leave.
So keep your head down, keep your hands where I can see them.
So keep your head down, keep your hands where I can see them, now.
This will all be over soon this will all be over soon.

“If I Had A Mountain”

But a book abandoned by the bed might kill me.
The stain from where your wine glass was could bring me to my knees
A book abandoned by the bed might kill me
If I don’t have you.

“The Great Fire”

So this is really what you want
And not some wild experiment
That you’re just trying?
Do you remember saying my name?
There was only one way you could say it
Before the fire
The fire broke out.

I’m just plucking some lyrics out to make my point, but if you take a look at all of the lyrics and the stories being told - the album really does take a different tone when you take the time for a deeper listen.  When you combine all of the songs together as a cohesive package the theme intensifies and that is something that I really appreciate in an album. 

Song Highlights

“Upside Down & Inside Out”

This is a strong opener.  After you press play, you’re greeted with this driving number that will slap you across the face and beg, “Listen to me!”  It does the job well because after it ends, your interest is captured and you want to keep listening.

“The Writings On The Wall”

This is the song that intrigued me to the point to buy the disc on Pledge Music.  If you’re just humming along with the song and not paying attention it feels somewhat upbeat and actually, it would be great in a road trip mix.  But this is one of those songs that upon further digging – you figure out that it’s not such a happy song after all.  In fact, once you read the lyrics, it sounds like it’s describing a swan song for a relationship. 

This is a perfect time to give mention about something that I’ve come to admire about OK Go’s songs - their ability to paint a sonic picture, or emotional feeling that connects you with the song.  Sometimes that translates to just imagery in your head and other times, as in this case, it screams to be inserted into a breakup montage in a movie.  I really appreciate when an artist takes me there in my head.

“Another Set Of Issues”

The song starts out using a synth bass line that jumps across the speakers, but it’s not so in your face that you’ll really catch it unless you’re listening with phones.  It’s a cool effect that adds an interesting texture to the song.  The addition of the tubular bells adds a serious, somber tone to the song, which helps paint that picture that the lyrics are describing.


This is one of the many songs on the album where your foot will start to tap, or your neck will start to get in a groove.  It’s got a driving beat that’s helped along by a drum machine and a simple little guitar riff that slides from note to note.  As an added bonus, the guys use a vocoder on this song, which will always score a few extra points in my book!  I will say though, that it’s used in good taste and not just thrown in there arbitrarily – it really helps paint this stalking, obsessed creep character in your head.  They’re talking about obsession, but you get the feeling it’s not a healthy obsession.  The cool thing about that is that you get that feeling because of the musical scenery OK Go creates to go along with the lyrics – I love that.

“I’m Not Through”

This is one of my favorites on the album.  I love how funky it is and at the same time it gets really sweet and beautiful in the chorus when they sing I’m not through and hold the ooooh.  Then, a 70’s feeling string run comes in after the first chorus and just invites you back to funk.  The string work all through this song really adds another dimension to the song.  But Ok Go doesn’t stop there with this funky ditty.  What seals the deal for me on this song is the added synth work.  If any of you reading this have heard Beck’s Midnight Vultures album, you’ll think this song was plucked from those sessions because of the stylistic elements to the song and the synth work is very reminiscent of that album.  When you add all of these components together with the distorted guitar solo – it’s hard not to be sent in that direction when you listen to this song.  It’s one of my favorites on the album.

“I Won’t Let You Down”

This is THE Song of the album.  It’s such a great pop song, I can’t say enough about it. It’s funky, it will make you dance, and it’s so upbeat that it can lift your mood.  When I heard it the first time, I was personally taken to The Jackson 5’s “ABC” and “I Want You Back.”  As the song starts, you’re instantly perked up by the guitar, which is joined by a cool piano riff.  It’s the combination of these two elements before the vocals start that really takes me to those songs.  Either way, you want to get up and dance to this beast of a pop song.

Honestly, it takes me back to college where these friends of ours used to take (what they called) OMC breaks and just BLAST OMC’s “How Bizarre” and dance around like idiots to relieve the pressures and monotony of studying.  This song reminds me so much of that because it is so infectious and uplifting.  Seriously, THIS GUY could’ve used an “I Won’t Let You Down” break!  I guarantee he wouldn’t have freaked out like this if he had listened to this song once every half hour! 

I literally had a hard time reviewing the album because I couldn’t get past this song once I heard it – I would just hit the back button on the steering wheel over and over and over.  I love the key change at the end – it just drops the hammer on the song, really energizing it.  After this little boost of energy the song feels like it could go on for another 3 minutes but sadly, the song ends and you’re forced to hit repeat to get your fill again.

The One Moment

The very title suggests it has the potential to be an emotionally charged song, and as soon as the first chords come in your intuition is immediately verified.  The chorus on this song is very anthemic and would be another great song for an emotionally charged movie montage or scene.  They really create tons of passion with the vocals on this song.  Lyrically, again they’re talking about the ending of something and really make their point through the passion in the vocal.

The Great Fire

This song feels like a natural continuation of “If I Had A Mountain”.   Ok Go goes all out in their sonic landscape creation on this song.  They really used the synths and the panning from left to right imaginatively here to build the image in your mind.  You really can’t appreciate this song fully until you listen with headphones – I didn’t notice a lot of the finer details in the car.  For example around 1:02 you get this effect that sounds like something is flying from left to right and back again in the head phones.  Also mixed throughout the song (most prominently heard over the guitar solo) is what sounds like a thunderstorm.  Again, when all of these elements are added together it gives the song it’s own visual characteristic that really adds to the listening experience.

All in all, I would say that it’s a good album and a worthy buy.  I listen to it now completely different than when I ran through it the first time.  There are multiple layers of depth to the album that you can really appreciate if you give it a good listen.  If nothing else - go to your favorite digital music store and buy “I Won’t Let You Down” - you won’t be sorry!

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Thanks for reading,

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