On 'Full Moon, Heavy Light' Ona Show Off Their Penchant for Dreamy Indie Vibes
A perfect soundtrack of impending summer sunsets, Ona's Full Moon, Heavy Light banks on retro vibes with pitch-perfect songwriting.
Full Moon, Heavy Light
10 May 2019
Take one look at the cover for Ona's latest record Full Moon, Heavy Light, and it's not difficult to anticipate their vibe. With its jarring painted images and sharp juxtapositions of colors, it takes cues from the Band's Music from Big Pink and Nick Drake's Pink Moon, records loaded with thoughtful, tuneful songs overlaid with warm production values. That's not to say Full Moon, Heavy Light is derivative; it simply takes inspiration from classic records, infusing it with an updated sensibility and solid songwriting.
"Summer Candy" is a breezy, carefree track for the warmer months. With dreamy guitars and a chipper beat, it's pure sunshine, an unpretentious and honest take on the lighter side of indie rock. It's a vibe carried through songs like the synth-adorned "Allison in the Grass" and "Pennyroyal" with its tasteful piano and strings lurking in the background. Lead-off single "Golden Highway Deserter" fuses the crackly sonic textures of 1970s rock–namely warm guitars and a fuzzy, pumping bass–with the sweet songwriting ideals of throwback pop-rock.
There is a glut of bands today exploiting throwback sounds for overly-nostalgic and commercial purposes. It's a dangerous proposition: while the most sincere of artists want to pay homage and hit the emotional musical heights of their favorite records, others simply capitalize on retro for retro's sake. The 1980s are the big focus at the moment, and while copying its aesthetic is easier than murdering fish in the proverbial barrel (neon and synths and cassette tapes, oh my!), there are valuable qualities that, sadly get left in the dust.
All that is to say, Ona champion the spirit of rock music of the 1960s and 1970s, and they do it with love and heart. Unlike their overly-nostalgic rock counterparts, Ona embraces the best parts of vintage Southern California songwriters without sounding too obvious or restricted. Sonically, "Young Forever" champions the '60s/'70s West Coast sound with light-as-a-feather textures and orchestration. Harmonically and structurally, however, it's a timeless affair, unbound to time or place.
As a band, Ona knows their sound, and they deliver track after track of pure indie/rock/pop sunshine. As Full Moon, Heavy Light carries through to its second half, however, the delivery grows slightly stale. "Quito" is a fine song on its own, but its impact is lessened after so many tracks of the same sound and personality. Taken as overall the record is deep in vibe and sonic soul, an excellent soundtrack to summer sunsets. Closer, headphone listens, however, leave certain aspects to be desired.
Nonetheless, these are merely slight blips on a fantastic sophomore release. Full Moon, Heavy Light is an irresistible record, loaded with inviting sonic scapes and catchy numbers. It's a sincere release that tips a hat towards the past without relying on nostalgia or pastiche. One can only imagine the songwriting heights Ona will hit in the future.