ought

“Well today, more than any other day, I am excited to feel the milk of human kindness.” Euphoric, but arch with it, that’s quite an opening for a song that details a David Foster Wallace-esque joy in the banalities of modern life and ends with singer Tim Darcy (he officially changed his surname from Beeler earlier this year) yelping how “we’re all the fucking same”. But much about the Montreal-based quartet’s debut record surprised and delighted in equal measure; a fizzing, postpunk romp that managed to be complex yet catchy, and tackled such heady topics as self-doubt, empowerment, and social awareness with wit, intelligence, and a hopeful swagger.

A pretty high bar then, but how much thought and effort they’ve put into clearing it shines through ‘Sun Coming Down’’s eight tracks. Tightness and precision are not necessarily what you expect from young, scrappy art-punks, and while ‘More Than Any Other Day’ displayed, at times, a dizzying level of technicality, their subsequent year on the road has only heightened this sense of togetherness; by the time you reach the churning ‘Sun’s Coming Down’, drummer Tim Keen and bassist Ben Stidworthy function virtually as one, while Darcy has the uncanny knack of knowing exactly when to embellish and when to let the rhythm take centre stage.

Confident enough to bury their influences – David Byrne, Talking Heads, Modern Lovers et al. – a little deeper this time, Ought seem unencumbered by history and intent on carving out their own legacy; they look defiantly forward, not back. And while there’s still an even split between head-rattling squalls and angular guitar pop, Darcy’s distinctive detachment and deadpan delivery proves the perfect foil for a restless spirit and the simple, raw production employed throughout.

All this culminates in a song they’ve been playing live for over a year, ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’, a gorgeous, sprawling epic that gently unfolds over the course of nearly eight minutes. The record’s spiritual heart – just as it anchors their shows – swings back and forth from gentle crescendos to quiet bustle while Darcy spits repeated sections of (very modern) meaningless small talk. “Condo / How’s the family? / Beautiful weather today / Fancy seeing you here!” is his wry take on the monotony of our limited human interactions and capitalism’s march of conspicuous consumption. But Darcy, as always, lets in a chink of light; “I’m no longer afraid to dance tonight / Cause that is all I have left!” Take pleasure in the small victories then, and joy where you can find it; this album is a good place to start.

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