Oddnote - Oddnote (Self-released, 2018)
The Nasheville-based group Oddnote has released its debut self-titled LP, and there is quite a bit to dig into. The five members have come together to create a predominately grunge rock sound, reviving the slowly arpeggiated bass lines, throat-bruising vocals, and brunt force distortion of the 90s. The album, released on January 13th of this year, seems to take influence from household names like Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, and The Foo Fighters.
The release begins with 30 seconds of otherworldly ambience—as if stretching out the notes of a harmonica. Without warning, we fall into “Money Comes, Money Goes,” which serves as a fully exposed look into Oddnote’s world, and easily one of the record’s highlights. The arrangement and instrumentation is simple, accessible, and satiating. Arman Asadsangabi, the group’s frontman and main vocalist, delivers a potent performance.
Next we have “Life Plays on Life,” a song that seems to toy with the same vocal reverb and compression of Alex Turner, but with the wickedness of Chris Cornell. Crunchy guitar marches forward on top of muted drums as Asadsangabi goes from crooning to screeching. “Used” is another instantly gratifying track. Steeped in dirt and coated in grime, the chaotic thrashing is easily enjoyable.
But “Peace of Mind” takes us somewhere new and experimental. Manipulated, bass-heavy vocals ooze out like gasoline. Ambiguously warm instrumentation hovers on top, backwards and contorted. It’s an ominous maneuver that breaks the album’s pattern of raw rock, deepening its self awareness. We see this eclecticism again in “Dimension 9,” a disorienting and dark interlude that undoubtedly harkens to The Beatles’s infamous “Revolution 9.”
The sixth track, “Icy Hell,” gives us twanging guitar, quirky bass, and Nirvana-esque screaming. The playful instrumentation mixed with charged and violent emotion creates a fun yet short-lived exploration between dark and light, play and rage, and aggression and passivity. “615” takes on a pop rock vibe imbued with angst. Beginning with bright fingerpicking and resonant drumming, the melody fiddles beautifully with tonality. The chorus brings a racing, two-fisted momentum.
With “Smoke Break,” the motif of scrambled guitar and vocals continues on all the way to the end. What would normally be a longwinded release of 15 songs, becomes a bit less of a struggle. The record pushes further into the depths of grunge, metal, and pop rock. “Bad Tabs” places static-y riffs alongside cowbell and tambourine. “Laser Beam” features a mellow aside of drawn out feedback and delay before circling back around for a burst of punkish hammering.
Oddnote does not stand out as a forerunner of any new sound, but its attempt at digestible grunge is wholehearted and deserving of praise. While the album loses some power towards the midpoint and could do with even more experimentation, the tracks that succeed do so succinctly and with a punch. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for their future projects.
- Gabe Kahan
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