Bumped into writer/musician Russ Litten last friday from Oceaneers (we were checking out the Infidels at Thieving Harry’s) and I told him how I’d loved listening to his band’s album Light Of The Whalebone during lockdown. I wanted to explain how it had been a source of comfort and connection, the way it suddenly became more important to seek out and support hometown artists.
He asked me which tracks I liked from it, and suddenly on the spot, I found I was unable to wax lyrical as I had done in my head a hundred times over last year, when the Oceaneers’ sound had kept me company.
So Russ in that moment when you asked me about the album this is what I would have said: and if it comes over as gushing then so be it.
Where Echoes Go To Die is achingly beautiful and starts the album with a soaring refrain thats sets out the Oceaneers stall. There’s the subtle underling bass line that comes in, in such a sublime way…the perfect placement of the backing vocal. The difference between making music and churning out pop songs from a tube is that I find today’s stars find one neat trick and then repeat throughout, other musicians find a trick/hook and build from there ever challenging themselves and the listener. It is a perfectly crafted number and leaves you in no doubt of the accomplished nature of this band of brothers.
Prince of the Vagabond People what a title… another beautifully swimmy vocal. A yearning, heartfelt song all those things that make you clench your fist in some meaningful gesture of holding on, as saltwater pricks the corner of your eyes in the middle of the morning.
A Brighter Day my first introduction to the band and perhaps unfortunate that it was released just before a pandemic gripped the globe and changed life as we knew it… Brighter days may well be on their way now so this song does feel timely a year after its release. Another strong opening refrain with harmonies that takes you by surprise, and then the uplift at the end that feels part of the verse/chorus. More surprises with the appearance of a bohemian flute with shades of john Barry’s Florida Fantasy.
Camouflage a slow burner that just begs to be sung along to: hellishly catchy, picks up and you with it and doesn’t let go.
The closing number The Very Bones of You on Light of the Whalebone – remains a remarkable album critically acclaimed when released during lockdown last year – has a bit of everything poetry, punch, pianos, desperate refrains of ‘wrapped up in white’ and yowling Tom Waits-esque hysteria, with an eccentric almost gaudy sign off.
Go and check it out it really is that good…
Oceaneers are: singer, guitarist and lyricist John Parkinson; bassist and lyricist Russ Litten; guitarist Simon Bristow and drums David Stead.