Album Review: Oceanator — ‘Things I Never Said’

Posted: by The Editor

As Oceanator, New York musician Elise Okusami has been crafting captivating rock songs instilled with punchy pop hooks since she released an EP called, simply, EP in 2016. Her new album Things I Never Said, out now on Okusami’s own Plastic Miracles label, has had a life of its own in the run-up to its release. Originally slated for release on the current sunken-ship of a label, Tiny Engines, Okusami reclaimed it and formed her own team. Besides the obvious financial benefits of that move, Things I Never Said feels like a perfect encapsulation of Okusami’s work so far, and it only makes sense she can fully own all aspects of it. Many of its songs touch on a similar theme: the end of the world. In a year that feels so much like end times are near, Things feels even more prescient, as it was finished by 2019.

Some of Things’ magic lies in its construction. Everything about it sounds curated, and it takes risks right down to several song’s percussion and timing. The tones Okusami uses and melodies she creates feel timeless; fresh, but also familiar. That familiarity helps cushion the blow when Okusami hits you with some painful truth, like on “Crack in the World.” That song, the record’s first single, feels like an instant contender for Song of the Year lists come December. It’s both apocalyptic and hopeful because while Okusami says “there’s a crack in the world / and we’re all hanging on / trying not to fall through the void“ she also reminds us she’ll “try to keep the skies blue anyway.” Just as impressive as the song’s lyrics are its inventive guitar parts. It chugs along but feels like it’s retracing its own steps, never getting stuck in one place. 

There are many other standouts on Things, like “Hide Away” and “I Would Find You”. The former is a song about facing our own mortality and that of the world, done over a fascinating, almost marching, staccato riff that Okusami’s vocal feels almost untethered from. Like many of Things nine tracks, it swells into something compelling, something that makes you want to shout the lyrics “wonder how many afternoons I have left” from a sweaty, huddled crowd.

“I Would Find You” is an odyssey, covered with iridescent synth. Another song about speculative end-times, it’s full of love and self-sacrifice. It’s not trying to grapple with impermanence, but with finding comfort during times of hardship. Being the subject of the song’s lyrics is a pretty good spot to be in, everyone wants this kind of unconditional support, and to not have to be the one putting on a brave face. 

A good debut album establishes what an artist sounds like and tries to draw in fans of similar acts. It’s their first big statement and doesn’t have to be a finely tuned one. Things is not just a good debut, but a perfect one. The years of hard work that went into it can be felt, and Okusami’s immense talent is breathtaking. Her message is clear and pushes her to the forefront; she’s a rockstar, and she isn’t going anywhere.

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal

Eric Bennett | @seething_coast

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