by Colin Vallee (@ColinJBeard)
The Ophelias incredible Yoni Wolf (Why?) produced sophomore album Almost is the perfect blend of pop production quality and art-rock sensibilities, buoyed by thoughtful lyrics and dense compositions. Every single sound, note, and tone on this record is so precise, welcome, and perfectly placed that they can tell a story all on their own.
Take, for instance, the sound of the guitar right after the first chorus on standout, "O Command". As far as I can tell the crunchy guitar tone never appears again on the record but when it’s ushering the listener between the syncopated chorus into the second half of the song it's like a deep breath after a long yell into the void. "You do what you don’t want//You wonder where I’ll be//You sing in a whisper//You sing what you don’t mean" singer Spencer Peppet accosts the listener.
I first heard "Fog," their first single and opening track, when I was snooping around Bandcamp, and it drew me in immediately with its cascading "bum bums" that faded away into the ether. Once those guitar strums come in followed by the confident drums of Micaela Adams it's hard not to want to hear the rest of this album. There's this playful moment in "Fog" where everything drops out leaving an eerie acapella claiming, "You know what you did". Then, just as immediately, the violin bounces back in and everything picks up where it left off.
The song ends and seamlessly segues into the next one, "General Electric," which has one of my favorite lines on the whole album, “I’m General Electric, you’re a Casanova.” These two songs make for one of the strongest openings of an album I’ve heard all year, and both are absolute earworms. The Grace Weir basslines on "General Electric" also give me strong echoes of "Naive Melody," and I usually throw that song into the Spotify cue right after this one.
The track "House" is this haunting, dark, ritualistic piece with its shakers, repeating piano and amazing Andrea Gutmann-Fuentes violin work. Gutmann-Fuentes’s violin playing is one of the highlights of this whole album. From the lush swells on "O command," the delicate wails on "Night Signs," and the plucky reverb on "Bird," every track is elevated by her presence.
I've had this album on repeat since it was released and every time I listen to it I find more special moments to unpack. While there's a pervasive sadness that persists throughout the album, I would say Almost is far from a sad record. There's so much acceptance and understanding that comes with each track that I feel like the whole thing is more triumphant than anything else. And if deep, lush production isn't necessarily what you nerd out about, I’m also happy to report Almost is also an all-around great listen and deserves to be on everyone's “It’s summer but it’s raining outside” playlist.