ALBUM REVIEW: Oh Wonder’s ‘Ultralife’ sends you in and out of love in the far reaches of space

The London-based alt-pop duo takes you on a journey of love and loneliness in their sophomore album

| July 17, 2017

‘Ultralife’ Album Cover Courtesy of Oh Wonder and Island Records

While pop queen Lorde’s fluorescent follow-up with ‘Melodrama’ might have easily been one of my most anticipated pop albums of the summer, another artist I was eager to hear again was the London-based duo of Oh Wonder. Surfacing to instant global acclaim in 2014 with their self-titled debut, the duo of Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West have now returned with the melodic and atmospheric ‘Ultralife,’ a journey through time and space, and love and loss.

It probably wasn’t until my sister tossed the breezy hit of “Without You,” off their debut album, my way that I was truly introduced — and entranced — by the phenomenal allure of Oh Wonder. Quickly diving into their other hits in the slow-burning “Drive” and euphoric dance hit “Lose It,” I discovered a group that utilized techno-infused piano chords to elevate their nostalgic, soft-spoken songwriting beyond the ordinary. With their first album, the self-titled ‘Oh Wonder,’ drumming through my mind as I moved into 2017, I was eager to find out where the duo might venture next.

To my surprise, the band quickly adopted a more refined, melancholic essence for their sophomore effort, tackling themes of love and loneliness with vibrant confidence. Opening the album with the synth-infused, dreamlike “Solo,” the tone of the entire album was more or less solidified in ideals of finding space and discovering yourself in the messy reality we live in today. Punching through with the hit “Ultralife,” a dynamic and lyrical anthem for the summer, and the addictive “High On Humans,” the album also served up the importance of human interaction, and the ethereal feeling of drifting into new love.

Finding yourself lost in the trials and tribulations of a new relationship wasn’t the only place Oh Wonder aimed to transport you, however. The duo also worked to send you into a state of struggling isolation from the world, shooting your mind into the far reaches of outer space. Through ethereal lyrics that blended regret and hopelessness with freeness and delight, the emotional, underlying melodies and the distant but meaningful vocals of Gucht and West invited you to dance and sing along, but also held a more prominent purpose — to relish in the beauty of mankind and the fluttering joy beyond all the bitterness and heartbreak.

Composed, recorded and produced entirely by Gucht and West, as they traversed the streets of New York and made their way back to London with a flurry of ideas in their heads, ‘Ultralife’ let Oh Wonder show their true colors, their undeniable potential flowing through the veins of this impressive follow-up. With tracks like “High On Humans” and “My Friends” set to zip through my mind all summer long, the soft, techno pop of Oh Wonder should definitely be on your radar.

‘Ultralife’ is available in stores and for streaming everywhere now.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Music

Tyler Trudeau is a sophomore Architecture major from Raleigh, NC, who spends most of his time writing about movies, running in 90 degree heat, and bingeing Netflix shows. You can find more of his film criticism and editorials at his personal website below.

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Tyler Trudeau is a sophomore Architecture major from Raleigh, NC, who spends most of his time writing about movies, running in 90 degree heat, and bingeing Netflix shows. You can find more of his film criticism and editorials at his personal website below.

Twitter Author's Website