Tommy Ocean is not only an easy name to remember but one that proves more than worthwhile doing so once you’ve spent even just ten minutes or so with this latest album. There’s a certain purity to his sound, which fuses beautifully and authentically with the deeply considerate, honest and insightful manner in which he writes.
Even with the initial openness of Tell Me, complete with its rising anticipation, raw folk sound, and a gentle to raspy leading voice that meanders through this entrancing melody, Ocean showcases a truly meaningful approach to music. This is anything but squeaky clean pop – there’s a lightness to much of it, but authenticity rules above all; you can hear the live sound, and you can connect with these expressions of intimacy and deep thought all the more profoundly for it.
Tommy Ocean is a story-teller, a musician and writer with intention and purpose. Moments like Revolution set upon a mildly theatrical, Bob Dylan-like level of depth, alongside an Elliot Smith style display of emotion and heart. And with all of this, as each song progresses, the latter half often sees Ocean rise up into these passionate, higher melodic peaks – further emphasizing the thoughts at the heart of his work. This, among certain vocal cracks and intricacies, is one of the most recognizable and unique traits throughout this album.
Progressing from the passionate strum to the more delicate and musically impressive finger-picking, Sometimes mellows things out for a near-whispered journey of personal reflection and contemplation. The perfect accompaniment to nights or commutes spent lost in thought or in overwhelming awe of the world.
Sometimes a breaking wave is all it takes for you to live…
Raindrops kicks in with weight and power, a heavy rise and fall on the guitar, a bolder vocal, short, poetic lines – the scene is set and stands out well amidst what came before. Tommy Ocean manages to create eclecticism within an acoustic project – a decidedly rare trait that’s absolutely worth appreciating.
In contrast again, El Viento softens things with a progression from delicacy to quickness by means of a breathy, light delivery. Dashes of harmonica light up several moments within this project, effective instrumental breaks that suit the mood perfectly well – allowing the listener to reflect on the ideas in a moment of hypnotic musical embrace.
Lyrically, songs like As I Am seem fit to fascinate as Ocean pours his personal experiences via story-telling into the process. That level of human vulnerability helps build something of value for the deep thinkers out there. This song in particular seems to balance softness and intensity brilliantly. A personal favourite. I Got Love afterwards juxtaposes that intensity with a simple purity and intimacy, reminding you how in-the-room this whole collection really is.
Towards the end, The Beggar brings through a vocal highlight – Ocean’s subtle soulfulness meets with a tired rasp that suits the short lines that make up this piece. Again there’s an energizing rise up to heightened emotion for the finale. Then you get the artistically free Spring Song, one that feels a little more alternative musically than anything else, somewhat melodically dissonant but interesting in being so.
Nobot comes to a close with the energetic and passionate strum of Meet Me In The Waters. The questioning lyrics draw you right back in for these final moments.
Tommy Ocean can clearly hold the show, just the artist and his guitar, without letting things get tiresome or repetitive – far from both. A wonderfully pure album, from a thoughtful, skillful songwriter.