It’s easy to talk about Orations through the lens of “modern band does classic genre music.” Hell, that was my main talking point when I wrote about their previous EP. It’s really not a point worth revisiting because there is more going on. Orations are easily one of the strongest modern voices in this kind of music.
All that said, what’s new? Wych Elm is Orations honing their sound even further. The reverb is still there. The melodies are still top notch. Jess Collins still has one of the best goddamn voices. Wych Elm stands out by what makes it different from past releases. They still effortless emphasize the punk part of post-punk, but not so strongly as on the self titled EP. It’s still very “goth” sounding, but has more of a college rock type jangle when compared to to the more Siouxsie And The Banshees / The Cure vibe on Incantations.
Wych Elm is absolutely everything a first full length should be. It feels like a declaration of intent. Like a mission statement. It’s documentation of a band that knows exactly what they are and exactly where they’re going.
Custom Made Music
Swiss Dark Nights
2016 was on some bullshit, man. I didn’t dedicate a lot of time to the blog because shit just kept happening. I kept running into car related money problems. My personal life kept finding new and exciting ways to be terrible. And everything really kind of stopped after my dad died back in May.
I’m still trying to figure out how much longer I’m going to keep doing things here. I’m leaning more toward keeping up than I was back in October. I guess we’ll see where it all goes in the coming months. Anyway, here are my top 25 favorite records of 2016 in alphabetical order:
- Angel Olsen – “My Woman”
- Colleen Green – “Colleen Green”
- Computer Magic – “Obscure But Visible”
- Dowsing – “Okay”
- Flock Of Dimes – “If You See Me, Say Yes”
- Fucko – “Dealing With The Weird”
- Frankie Cosmos – “Next Thing”
- Haybaby – “Blood Harvest”
- The Hotelier – “Goodness”
- Japanese Breakfast – “Psychopomp”
- Kindling – “Everywhere Else”
- Kowabunga! Kid – “Wasting My Time”
- Magik*Magik – “MAGIK*MAGIK”
- Middle Part – “Middle Part”
- Miserable – “Uncontrollable”
- Mitski – “Puberty 2”
- Museum Mouth – “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig”
- Nancy Pants – “Vol. 27 EP”
- Orations – “Incantation”
- Psychic Twin – “Strange Diary”
- Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”
- Save Ends – “Hug Your Friends”
- Signals Midwest – “At This Age”
- Slingshot Dakota – “Break”
- Slow Bloom – “Slow Bloom”
That’s the list. Yes, I know there are some high profile releases that I didn’t include. Most glaringly, I passed on the American Football record and the Jimmy Eat World record. I know I’m supposed to love those records, but I really didn’t.
In the immortal words of the Wu-Tang Clan: if you want beef, then bring the ruckus.
I love hearing modern bands play classic genre music. Orations are a prime example of how good it can sound. What they’ve done on Incantation is an interesting bit of songwriting, and certainly not easy. They live in a middle ground of goth inspired post-punk/new wave and driving, mid-tempo punk rock. They never sound like just a punk rock band trying to fuck with post-punk and new wave, and that is what makes this whole thing work so well.
The four songs on Incantation seem to be split into two styles. “Curses” and “Strangely Safe” bookend the EP with a style that calls to mind the poppier side of Siouxsie And The Banshees or The Cure. Mostly thanks to that classic post-punk/new wave guitar tone. Great use of reverb and great melodics. Those songs have a gothy kind of sound, but never fall into the droney and brooding genre traps. The middle two songs, “Circus of Currents” and “Nosedive,” have a much more straight forward punk rock sound. They definitely match the tone of the other songs, but maybe don’t rely so much on the overall atmospherics as much.
The band is great at tying everything together. Jason Draper (bass) and Paul Morin (guitar) absolutely nail the kind of interplay needed to make this sound work. Steve Sojka (drums) is very versatile in his own right, switching styles depending on what the songs call for. A lot of band would sort of fuck up the post-punk to punk rock shift, but Orations have it covered. But, in my mind, the strongest selling point of the record has to be Jess Collins’ vocals. She has a very commanding voice. It’s strong enough to stand out on the more driving songs, but versatile enough to weave in and out of the more atmospheric one.
This is skilled band walking a very tight rope. They’re making music that borrows from a classic sound, but they’re adding enough life and energy to keep it from being mindless throwback bullshit. A lesser band might not be able to do it, and that alone makes this one worth a listen.
Sheets Of Tens Records / Buy It
Bandcamp / Buy It