No Oslo, it’s not you, it’s me


High Mountain Sessions: Volume 1


Release Date: Jun 28, 11

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Oslo. The name slips from the tongue.  A short “O” gets the ball rolling and equates to a clipped version of a doctor’s “say ahh.” And to end it is the voluptuous long “O.” Two syllables. Balanced well on either end; it could sit a top a pin and never tilt.

On High Mountain Sessions: Volume 1, the Californian quartet Oslo’s latest release, the band plays this balancing act with each song. The album is striking in its brevity. Only seven tracks in total and two of the songs are remixes of songs found on the record.

Most folks would probably peg “Fever” as the album’s stand out track. That’s thanks to the chorus and bridge. “Stand Out” doesn’t necessarily mean what one would choose as a single for radio play or a song that will get the party poppin’ and lead to bitches in the bedroom gettin’ it on.

More so, it’s simply the most enjoyable song on the record. “Fever” starts off with tight chords played on a distorted keyboard. Oslo enthusiasts would probably take a moment at this point to note the addition of keyboardist Damon Ramirez to the Oslo line up for this record. I will do no such thing.

Over the keyboard comes a slow guitar line lost in an opiate muffle. There is an uneasy feel to the verse. Its tension built by the off-kilter guitar playing of Gabriel McNair. Fuzzed out guitars and subdued strings create the atmosphere for Mattias Borrani’s scratchy vocals to breathe within. The result is an emotive garage rock haze.

The rest of the album consists of solid songs, set tight in structure and a verse-chorus balance that doesn’t break any ground but doesn’t sound bad either. The songs are tight. The band may be even tighter: playing well off one another’s strengths and diminishing one another’s weaknesses.

All in all High Mountain Sessions Volume: 1 is a pretty straightforward indie rock record. Listening to the record sort of leaves you feeling like you’re in limbo though.

To illustrate the band’s not-quite-banality just take into account that two of its songs have been featured on CBS network shows. I’m not knocking “How I Met Your Mother” but CBS’s primetime line up is a prime example of hackneyed products that are sterilized and ready to be forced up the ass of Mass America as an entertaining suppository. Excuse that last hiccup.

The problem is the album is too neat. It never really breaks conventions or attempts anything out of the band’s comfort zone. This is a conundrum. It means the record will sound good at most points, but the music never really transgresses its own boundaries. On one hand it can never fail, but it can never sound great or will you to re-listen either.