Plea­sure prin­ci­ples

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - LAU­REN MUR­PHY

OH WON­DER Ul­tral­ife

Is­land Records For a band who recorded their first al­bum piece­meal, re­leas­ing songs in monthly in­stal­ments be­fore even­tu­ally com­pil­ing it for re­lease as a 15-track record, Oh Won­der have mas­tered the for­mat on their sec­ond out­ing. Not only does Ul­tral­ife flow beau­ti­fully from the chim­ing open­ing note to the sub­dued fi­nal syn­co­pated synth riff, but the Lon­don duo have a firm grasp on what works on a pop al­bum.

As mu­si­cally di­verse as Ul­tral­ife may be, the no­tion of it as a con­cept that em­braces a joie de vivre and de­vised by Josephine Van­der Gucht and An­thony West plays an im­por­tant part in ty­ing these songs to­gether. The ti­tle track is as up­lift­ing a tune as you’ll hear all sum­mer, an ex­plo­sion of sum­mery, dance­able elec­tropop with per­mis­si­bly sappy lovesick lyrics such as “Young, for­ever in the sun ever since you came along’; High On Hu­mans is a song about con­nect­ing with strangers and a tai­lor-made sound­track for throw­ing your arms around new friends at sum­mer fes­ti­vals. All About You is a li­bidi­nous 1980s throw­back of a soul song, Life­times’ gen­tle key­boar­d­led stomp is ir­re­sistible, while Heavy is a sul­try, sexy dance num­ber.

These are big songs with plenty of heart and of­ten clever word­play, as the pair’s dual vo­cals on Solo –a song that sounds like The xx with­out the malaise – proves, while the feath­erlight Heart Strings man­ages to shoe­horn the word “tes­sel­lat­ing’” in with­out sound­ing clumsy or pre­ten­tious. At many points, Oh Won­der sound like the band that The Ting Tings might have been if they hadn’t lost their way after their sparkling gem of a pop de­but.

True, the up­tempo pace drops off as the al­bum comes to a pared-back con­clu­sion on the som­bre Waste, but Ul­tral­ife en­cap­su­lates the tenets of what is miss­ing from so much mod­ern pop: un­abashed emo­tion and songs that com­mand you to dance. ohwon­der­mu­

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