Wednesday, June 8, 2016

OK Go "Hungry Ghosts" (2014)

OK Go is an American alternative rock band which was formed back in 1998 and is active to this day. The band was formed in Chicago and consists of four members: Damian Kulash, Dan Konopka, Tim Nordwind and Andy Ross, who replaced Andy Duncan in 2005. Kulash and Nordwind met at camp when they were 11 and kept in touch after, exchanging mixtapes and favorite music with each other. Both of them then met Duncan in high school and the three of them started a band in Chicago called Stanley’s Joyful Noise. After the last member Kulash joined the band the changed the name to OK Go which comes from an art teacher of theirs that used to say „OK... go!“ before the class started drawing.

In this time, OK Go has released four studio albums. In this review, I will be speaking about their newest one titled „Hungry Ghosts“, which was released in 2014. OK Go is especially known for their elaborate and quirky music videos in the past and their newest videos did not disappoint. Listening to this album and comparing it to the last three, it is definitely obvious that OK Go has chosen a much more modern and electronic music approach. And Damian Kulash decided to get a haircut which is also great.

The first track on the album is called Upside Down & Inside Out“. The video was released in February of this year and went absolutely viral on the next day, receiving 24 million views. What is so special about the video is that it is filmed in zero gravity. The band themselves said that although it all took place in zero gravity, they did not want the video to be just them flying around frantically and still wanted to do something choreographed. As their other videos, „Upside Down & Inside Out“, also maintained the appearance of one single take. The video took a lot of effort and time to film so that every take would be perfect and cohesive with the track itself. The song is quite catchy, fast-paced and definitely more electronic than their previous singles. Even the lyrics talk about gravity which makes the video a perfect fit for the song:
„Gravity's just a habit that you're pretty sure you can't break"

The second track is „Writing’s On the Wall“, which was the first single released from this album. With this track, it seems that they have still stuck to their roots of alternative rock music and unlike the first track, doesn’t seem so electronic. It really reminds me of their older songs. „Writing’s On the Wall“ talks about a relationship that is on the verge of ending and there seems to be no hope left:
„It seems like forever since we had a good day“

The video is again structured like a one-shot music video, received millions of views in the first day and sat in the top ten of the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart as well as other top charts. The video looks like it is filmed in a warehouse and includes a lot of optical effects and illusions. It also seems as though the band members are filming the whole thing by themselves which is a great personal touch. It is certain that the band has put a lot of work and effort into creating such optical illusions, there is a lot going on in the video and a surprise around every corner.

Next is Another Set of Issues“, which is a song with not many lyrics. The sound, however, is very quirky and different. It is interesting to listen to the different layers of this quirky instrumental. The whole album seems to be describing a failing relationship:

It all seemed so perfect, it all seemed like everything was right.
It all seemed so perfect, it all seemed so fine, until it was not.
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.

Like the previous track, it mixes an unfortunate and sad relationship story with a catchy beat, this one seems emotional and nostalgic, depressing but happy at the same time.

When a relationship ends, you have to go out and party, right? Well, that’s what the next trackTurn Up The Radio“ suggests. The song is about the pros and the cons of a breakup. Break ups are sad and depressing but on the other hand, it means freedom! „Nothing can stop us now!“. It is a mix of confusion, happiness and partying to get over a once loved one. The track is definitely very catchy with memorable lyrics.

Another track with many layers, unexpected and almost weird sounds (in a good way) is the fifth track on the album – „Obsession“. It is a track with a definite electronic touch for OK Go. With the rhythm and strangeness of this track, I feel like OK Go is trying to describe the mindset of an obsessive person. It’s a little crazy and not very cohesive, but in the end it kind of works. It is certainly telling a story.

The sixth track is „I’m Not Through“. Like many songs so far, there are really not that many lyrics. This song is a mix of so many different sounds. In the beginning, you can hear electronic sounds and later, after the short chorus you can hear a violin which sounds almost like classical music. That is what OK Go is all about from the beginning. One of the best parts is a great guitar solo later in the song.

Probably the shortest song of the album is „Bright as Your Eyes“. Again, staying with the theme of „positives and negatives of a relationship“, this song has a happy vibe, and is about a good period in a relationship:

Until the moonlight, until the stars rise in rebellion and take new charge, 
Until the planets, carefully tied, throw off their shackles and fill the sky, 
They will never shine bright as your eyes, they will never shine like your eyes.

The sound is definitely more modern for OK Go in comparison to their previous albums but not in an electronic dance music kind of way. You can still hear their style and quirkiness in the music.

„I Won’t Let You Down surprised me a lot and might be one of my favorites from this album. It is a track with a funky, happy vibe and a very strong disco influence. The video is impressive. Like in all of their videos it has an effect of a one take video. There is a lot going on: choreography, hundreds of dancers, the band members on some robot-unicycle looking things, all filmed with a drone. The movement is so precise, planned out and coherent with the beat of the song. It honestly does not look real, but it is. The video had a great response with 6 million views in the first two days. It also won Best Choreography at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.

The tenth song is „If I Had a Mountain“. If in this album the relationship they are singing about has had good and bad periods, has come with the freedom after a breakup, then now with „If I Had a Mountain“, OK Go is expressing sadness and regret, missing their other half. No more acting like real men don’t cry:

‘Cause everything that I am is just pieces of you. 
Every thought that I have, just pieces of you, just pieces of you. 
Just pieces of you.

This song could make anyone emotional.

The second to last song „The Great Fire“ stands out because there is no sign of rock music in this track. It is very different, slow, with faint electronic sounds in the background. It looks like the die hard „old“ OK Go lovers were quite angry because of the „new sound“ of this track. I have to say that in my opinion it is also not the best song on the record. Although the lyrics have some depth, it doesn’t speak to me musically.

The very last song is „Lullaby“, a very fitting ending to an album. It is soft and seems to be about a long distance relationship and missing each other. It is simply beautiful and hits a soft spot:

„Go to sleep, my love, just go to sleep.
And dream that I’m there in your arms tonight.
And dream that I’m there and we’ll be all right, we’ll be all right.“

„And when morning comes, and I’m still a thousand miles from your side, don’t give up.
Don’t let the darkness of day in, I’ll see you in your dreams again tomorrow night“.

Overall, If you have not listened to OK Go or seen a music video of theirs, please do so. Many songs on this album are very underrated, as well as this group in general. Their music videos are extremely elaborate, well thought out and amazing. It is impressive how much effort has been put into making a music video. This shows true dedication and pure love for music. It is very refreshing to watch considering today’s society and modern pop-music videos that seem to be just thrown together. If in the past I have only watched a couple of OK Go’s most popular music videos, I now had the opportunity to take some time and actually listen. The sound of their latest album shows great variety, from slow and emotional to fast-paced and funky. They have gone for a bit more of a modern approach than before, but still kept their originality and quirkiness that they are known and loved for. I really appreciate the mix of different sounds and the layers of the songs. Their lyrics have depth and meaning, but with a fun, catchy twist.

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