From playing small shows around town, to sharing a record label with Kishi Bashi; the Cincinnati-based indie pop quartet the Ophelias are making a name for themselves in the indie scene. Through the effective use of orchestration, straight forward lyricism, and a sound that offers a vague sense of nostalgia, the Ophelias’ sophomore album, Almost, gives the listener songs that are deceptively simple yet pack a punch.
The Ophelias formed in 2015, when front-woman Spencer Peppet was joined by bassist Grace Weir, violinist Andrea Gutmann Fuentes, and drummer Micaela Adams to add to some of her pre-existing solo work. A year later their debut album Creature Native was released. It was an album filled with dreary atmosphere, heavily featuring violin and plucked guitar. This sound supported Spencer’s direct and subdued lyrics well. Almost shows a huge step in compositional growth for the Ophelias. The album is filled with a heterogeneous sound that is bright and welcoming, which serves as excellent juxtaposition to the dark and hushed lyrics that Peppet delivers.
Almost starts off with a single note on piano and layered vocals that build into a wave of distortion. This gives way to the first song, “Fog”. Though only a minute and three quarters long, it shows how much a song can change through orchestration. Going from just violin and vocals, all the way up to a full orchestra of instruments and syncopated vocals, "Fog" is a warning to the listener that the rest of the album is going to be full of twists and turns.
“Fog” ends with a single note held over to the next song, "General Electric," which is packed to the gills with wonderful music moments. The musical accompaniment and vocals blend into each other to create a dreamy atmosphere that could send a person into a memory they do not remember ever remembering. As the song progresses, more layers are added and the tempo picks up until it drops off a cliff and all that is left is slightly distorted vocals and keys.
Though having a run time under three minutes, “House” has more sound changes and surprises than an eight-minute-long Car Seat Headrest song. Textures in the song vary from a single voice singing unaccompanied, to a full band with off kilter violin and what sounds like a distant primal scream. There are frequent tempo changes between the verses and choruses, and the lyrics are so frank that they do not give a damn that they are not close to rhyming.
One of my favorite lines from this whole album comes from the second verse of “House:” “Getting beat up on your way home from grade school, walk fast with hands where they can be seen, you’re a statue of David in a rain storm, Jesus Christ there are so many people in the world.” Accompanied by nothing but unsettling violin and shakers, this is one of the many memorable musical moments from this album.
The Ophelias were able to pack a lot of music into each and every song on this album. In spite of this, Almost does an amazing job balancing is sound. Though clearly benefiting from a high production value, The Ophelias were able to keep a sense to the music that, if someone were to tell me they recorded this in someone’s bedroom, I would absolutely believe them. Musically, Peppet’s solemn and hushed vocals play against sunny musical vibes that give the impression of a coming of age story.
For fans of: Bad Bad Hats, The Cranberries, lazy summer days
Our take: bright, multi-leveled music balancing darker subdued vocals, straightforward lyrics with a strong literary voice, effective use of layers.