#albumoftheday / REVIEW: OK GO: HUNGRY GHOSTS

OK GO: HUNGRY GHOSTSAs you may remember, I reviewed OK GO’s fantastic Upside Out EP back in August of this year. All four of those incredible, tasty treats are served up deliciously here on the band’s new album, Hungry Ghosts, which is, simply put, baked to perfection. But before we get to the brand new songs, let’s review the four songs from the EP:

“I want it loud as hell / I want the walls to melt,” sings Damian Kulash here on what is arguably the best sex song of the year. Seriously, if this contagious, pop-minded track doesn’t put sex on your brain then, well, you must not be human. Unless, of course, you’re a human who no longer has a pulse, buried six feet under. The only downside about this song, I suppose, would be that it might prove frustrating if you’re lacking a partner at the moment.

This track was the single from the EP and with good reason: it’s one of the catchiest songs the band has ever done, which is saying a lot because they’ve done a hell of *a lot* of catchy songs since they debuted in 2002. What’s it about? It’s about it being time to get together with your friends. And getting high when you do. During the verses Damian sings about things not being how they’re supposed to be before he launches into the killer chorus. “I just want to get you high at night,” he sings. And, you know what, his voice alone will probably have you feeling pretty euphoric.

This uber-funky number reminds me of J. Geil’s Band’s “Freeze Frame” in terms of its punchy beats and nice and bouncy tempo, something I said it my original review of the EP. And here’s another thing I pointed out: it really lets bassist Tim Nordwind shine in a big way. Heck, he shines as bright as the sun here, so put on your sun glasses and observe at your own risk. Seriously though, Tim has always been a great bassist but he’s incredible on Hungry Ghosts, often dominating the songs, and this track is a perfect example of this.”THE ONE MOMENT”
I called this one luke warm when I reviewed the EP, stating that the verses were louder than the chorus as my primary reason. Well, they clearly remixed and/or remastered the track for the album because that’s no longer the case, the chorus jumping out and hooking you as Damian sings about this being the one moment that will matter. Is it as amazing as the other three tracks? No. That said, it’s still better than 90% of what other rock bands are putting out of late. It’s just more of a deep cut than a single.

Now that we’ve established how awesome the songs from the EP are, you’re probably wondering if they’re the best songs on the album? Well, I thought so at first, but it turns out that was just because I knew them better than the rest of the album. But after listening to it several times, the older songs mesh perfectly with the newer tracks and I find myself enjoying them all equally. In fact, there really aren’t any songs on the album that I don’t enjoy. It’s just one fantastic thrill ride, really. On their last album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky the band spread their wings and did a lot of different things and I think some of their fans thought they were trying to do too many new things at once, forgetting that their audience prefers catchy over melancholy. I thought it was a great album and still do, but I could see why some of my friends weren’t as crazy about it as their first two records. I have no doubt that my friends will all love Hungry Ghosts though. It’s definitely a return to the band’s glory days. Now, let’s talk about some of my favorite new tracks…

L TO R: Tim, Dan, Damian and Andy live in Boston on September 19, 2014 PHOTO: JOSHUA BERNARD
L TO R: Tim, Dan, Damian and Andy live in Boston on September 19, 2014 PHOTO: JOSHUA BERNARD
This one opens the album and immediately sucks you in with its slamming beats, super shiny synth and Damian’s smooth vocals. “Don’t know where your eyes are, but they’re not doing what you said / Don’t know where your mind is baby, but you’re better off without it,” he sings during the chorus of this perfect example of melodic guitar rock. They use a cool stuttering effect on said chorus that makes the song even more exhilarating than it would otherwise be. They opened with this song when I saw them at The Paradise in Boston in September and it had the audience dancing even though they probably hadn’t even heard it before.”ANOTHER SET OF ISSUES”
This relatively down-tempo song is another example of Tim’s bass dominating a song. In fact, when it begins there aren’t any guitars, just bass, pop-minded beats and Damian’s easy breezy vocals. And, actually, I’m not even sure there are any six string guitars in the song whatsoever. As it goes on, there are all sorts of bubbly electro-flourishes that liven it up, and there’s something that could be guitar, but I’m pretty sure it’s just fuzzy synth.

They did this perfect example of dance rock when I caught them in September, too. And, once again, the crowd was dancing even though the song was surely new to them. “It’s obsession / uh huh / it’s obsession,” Damian sings. Later, an electronically processed voice sings, “There’s only one way out.” If you’ve ever been stalked you might not like this one but otherwise it’ll have you bouncing around in your seat. That is, until it commands you get up and start dancing along to Dan Konopka’s deep beats and Andy Ross’s arresting guitars.
Damian delivers acoustic bliss in Boston - PHOTO: JOSHUA BERNARD
Damian delivers acoustic bliss in Boston – PHOTO: JOSHUA BERNARD
“I know you gotta go / There’s some shit you gotta do,” Damian sings as this uber-funky song begins. It’s clearly about the girl wanting some space and the guy saying — er, singing, “I’m not through.” And boy does he sing that line perfectly, stretching out the word “through” like no singer has probably ever done before. If you’ve ever been in a relationship where your partner has said they want to cool it for a while then you’ll find this highly relatable. But it’s still a winning slice of funk even if you don’t.”IF I HAD A MOUNTAIN”
The band dabbles in electro-pop throughout this album, though on most songs it’s not to a point that it should be off-putting to people who aren’t down with that. But this down-tempo ballad is chock full of what I believe to be drum machine beats along with assorted loops and layers of menthol cool synth. Fans of their last album will especially like this.

“Go to sleep and dream that I’m there in your arms tonight,” Damian sings, nearly whispering, on this beautiful track that lives up to its name. You could also call it the best ballad the band has ever written. And it’s a perfect song for the end of the night when you’re done partying to the rest of the album. It’s probably also the simplest song the band has ever written, being that it consists only of Damian’s vocals and precious, gentle acoustic guitar. I’ve already added this gem to one of the playlists I listen to while falling asleep at night and I’m sure you will, too.

So, there you have it, six out of the 12 songs from OK GO’s new album, Hungry Ghosts, all spelled out nicely for you. Hopefully you feel like buying or streaming the album now, in which case my job is done. And if I haven’t convinced you, well, then there’s nothing more I can do for you.

Hungry Ghosts will be released on October 14th.





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