Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ola... kinda rocks?

It's rare that I am sent music to review.  While it's not really my schtick, the few times people go out of their way to send me something, I feel it only polite to give a listen and provide some feedback.  There's an interesting conundrum an amateur reviewer has between feeling as though they should provide some positive press for a band who contacts them and truly speaking one's mind.  As I sit down to listen to this album and begin to write... only time will tell where this post goes.

Olaroks, a Toronto four piece, reached out for a review of their 2011 album Somebody's Girl. Beyond this, I can't tell you much about the band except what I gleaned from their liner notes and a pretty sparse web presence.  At a very high level, there's nothing wrong with this album, but at the same time, I can't claim that there is anything overwhelmingly right about it either.

There are elements of this album that are really good.  Technically, its a tight and very proficient album.  All players have their chops together and Ola, their female front woman, has a solid voice that delivers a fairly consistent story and message across the album.  Their style has a catchy element with solid, pop sensibility. The songs are well arranged, decently balanced and even make use of a few extras and gimmicks like flutes.

But... so what?

I'll preface this by flat out stating that they simply might not be my style, however, the issue that I have with this album is that it doesn't push the envelope in any spheres.  The songs are all too safe and listening to each track, I seldom get the feeling like anyone in the band is taking a huge risk or doing something that takes them outside of their comfort zone.  After 34 minutes of music, only a handful of noteworthy moments stay in my mind.

We catch a glimpse of  where this band could be if someone really put themselves out there in my favorite track, the unfortunately titled "bum song."  However, the draw to this track is in the raw intensity of guest MC Louis Stroud.  If the most impressive part of your album is a guest artist, there is a bit of a problem.  While I wasn't a fan of it, at least the closing track "I like your bitches" tried to be something a bit unique, and not just through lyrical quasi-shock, but in the structure of a more original, unpredictable song.

Olaroks is the kind of band that one could easily enjoy as background to a chilled pub scene; and that's fine if it is your goal.  However, in my mind, a band should always strive to create music that insists on your attention.  Olarocks has the foundation of a solid band with talented musicians, however, if they want to take their tunes to the next level, they have to be able write a song that makes me give a damn.

-Where were you when we threw ourselves to the ground and let go of everything?