The Ophelias 2024
Photo: Courtesy of the artist / Pitch Perfect PR

The Ophelias Get Heavy on ‘Ribbon’

On Ribbon, the Ophelias weave moodiness seamlessly into a short but satisfying song cycle, and hopefully, the louder guitar is here to stay for a while.

The Ophelias
12 April 2024

The Ophelias get stronger and better with every release, and Ribbon, their latest EP, finds them further exploring darker, heavier sounds that were hinted at on 2021’s excellent Crocus. “Becoming a Nun”, a standout from that work, seems to light the way forward here. That record was the sound of a band starting to gel, with the lineup of singer-guitarist Spencer Peppet, bassist Jo Shaffer, drummer Mic Adams, and violinist Andrea Guttman Fuentes creating a compelling swirl of folk and pop elevated by Peppet’s lyrics, gutting and darkly funny in equal measure. On Ribbon, the Ophelias again weave this moodiness seamlessly into a short but satisfying song cycle, and hopefully, the louder guitar is here to stay for a while.

The first two tracks, “Black Ribbon” and “Soft and Tame”, are two of the heaviest songs in the band’s catalog, but still sound very much like the Ophelias, and Peppet’s evocative lyrics are as compelling as ever. “Black Ribbon” is a love song with lines perfectly capturing the swirl of feelings of new love–not just the heart flutters but also the burgeoning intimacy of connection shared with no one else and the occasional self-check-in of “Is this okay?” It makes the listener long for that swirl of feelings, to recall those moments if they have passed or to imagine them with a future love. This will be the lead track on many playlists curated for crushes.

“Soft and Tame” is the opposite, a “never again” that builds and builds to a big conclusion. The most memorable moments are when Peppet sings, “I need you to stay the fuck away.” The f-bomb isn’t what makes it powerful; it is more about the resolve in her voice when she delivers the line. Adams and Shaffer anchor the song, and Gutmann Fuentes’ violin elevates it, as she has on many of the best in their catalog.

Elsewhere, “Upper Hand” and “Dust” are linked thematically by recognizing that an apology is not coming and that it is time to move on. Peppet collects images of hypotheticals in bits and pieces, letting them feel unresolved and leaving the listener uneasy. “Dust” is a more direct rebuke, and Gutmann Fuentes makes it soar. These two take the shape of the signature Ophelias sound, pretty chamber pop with Peppet’s wounded but plaintive vocals riding over it all. Closer “Rind” is a Nick Drake-inspired track that begins with melancholy and drama and brings some of Peppet’s dark humor in the back end. The song also brings to mind 1990s indie folk greats Ida, who were also known for plaintive but devastating turns of phrase.

With Ribbon, the Ophelias could be easing their devotees into a new direction, or it might turn out to be a one-off foray into heavier sounds. Regardless of how that shakes out, this is yet another excellent release from a band that keeps growing more fully into themselves. You can hear how comfortable and confident they are in every track, and hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long to hear where they go from here.  

RATING 8 / 10