Ahead of their Hong Kong debut performance, alternative poppers Oh Wonder return with their sophomore album, Ultralife.
If you like The xx, you’ll love Solo, on which Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West sing in unison to create an almost identical dynamic. They venture further, with glossy acoustic guitars and a rolling snare culminating in a Bon Iver-esque crescendo.
This sullen tone isn’t utilised sparingly either. Bigger Than Love is even more sombre but with a London Grammar-style melody, allowing the track to become more expansive. All About You, Slip Away and Waste all follow in this vein, delivering varied and interesting synth sounds which give each song distinct personalities.
My Friends is another one of these slower numbers, and it really breaks emotional ground as Vander Gucht repeats, “And I can’t forget it, all of the love, all of the love,” over swooning strings in the final section, feeling reminiscent of Birdy.
Luckily there are a few upbeat numbers too. Heavy has a sophisticated strut pulsating through, Heart Strings is summery lounge pop hinting towards Jamiroquai in the choruses, and Overgrown has pop melodies you might hear from Ed Sheeran or James Blunt, yet still retains an element of Oh Wonder’s own style.
The title track and High On Humans have a bit more oomph, allowing for a little more angst, while sparkly whirling synths brighten up the mix no end.
Ultralife may be a little anti-climactic at times, but powerful lyrics and sweet melodies are enough to keep you coming back for repeated listens.
Edited by Ginny Wong