The Canadian post-punk band's second album is just the same, but brand new. The excitement the band generated is still very much present.
As someone who has grown weary of the insular, static nature of indie rock in recent years, I was absolutely floored by Ought’s debut album, More Than Any Other Day. From its intricate-yet-accessible arrangements to the well-timed explosions of fiery passion in each song, Ought crafted music that turned everyday struggles into triumphs, utilizing fraught tension in more subtle ways than we’re used to. It’s a winning formula that the band wisely stick to on their latest album, Sun Coming Down. That’s not to imply that the record is a repeat, though; they’re simply using the same tools to tell a different story.
What’s clear upon first listening to Sun Coming Down is that Ought are writing and playing as a well-drilled unit now. Whereas the previous album had a ramshackle charm that came out of the band’s members treating Ought as a side project, Sun Coming Down presents us with Ought as something to be taken seriously. In truth, that’s a good thing; the unprofessional spark that fueled Ought at the beginning could have only taken them so far, and some moments on the album show a band that’s willing to be a little adventurous. While the album may sound familiar to a few fans, it also shows off a more obtuse side of Ought, one that requires a bit more of an investment on the part of the listener.
That investment is well worth it in the end, though; Sun Coming Down is often every bit as thrilling and refreshing as its predecessor. While its release comes very quickly after the debut album, Sun Coming Down shows none of the hallmarks of the rushed, banged-out-on-the-road album that lesser bands would have made. The band’s newfound abstractness frequently works in their favor, as on the hypnotic “Beautiful Blue Sky.” Here, singer Tim Darcy (formerly Beeler) recites the mundane of existence in short-spoken bursts while the band’s playing grows tenser with each passing second. The rigidness of adult living is revisited on “Celebration,” where Darcy shouts the song’s title after pointing out that his suit fits okay.
This is all well-worn subject matter, especially for the recent crop of post-punk revival bands like Parquet Courts. However, those bands (especially Parquet Courts) approach this subject with a level of privileged dismissal. It’s easy to dismiss the sameness and soul-crushing nature of the working world when you have enough disposable income not to join it. Ought never approach their subject that way. For Ought, these experiences are real and necessary, even if they’re awful. Ought crucially remember to attack the institution without attacking the people forced to maintain it.
An education can be a problem for a musician, as the danger of becoming too clever for your own good is always present. Ought have thankfully avoided this problem so far; while they’re still young, they’ve shown a remarkable amount of intelligence and humility on their two albums so far. Sun Coming Down gives us just enough new ideas while highlighting everything that makes this band great. The future seems very bright, despite the setting sun.