Charlie Barnes – ‘Oceanography’ album review

Charlie Barnes Oceanography new music album review 2018

As a touring member of Bastille, Charlie Barnes has played to arena-sized audiences all over the world in the three years since his debut record ‘More Stately Mansions’. The follow-up ‘Oceanography’, again released via the ever-reliable Superball Music, was written in various hotel rooms during this period.

The album opens with a short intro that is equal parts film score, incidental chatter and operatic vocals. This is followed by ‘Oceanography’, a big post-pop song that reminded us of fine Scandi bands including Mew and Agent Fresco and finds Charlie talking about holding his breath underwater over and over again and takes an unexpected turn around 3 minutes in with strings coming to the fore. ‘Will & Testament’ features Dan Smith on guest vocal duties and has an altogether more electric feel, although the lyrics tackle some big themes: ‘Leave all your airs and graces at the cemetery gates’.

There’s a Springsteen-esque opening to ‘Bruising’ but this soon makes way for more post- or math-rock elements. The verses are structured in a complex fashion, while the chorus is more melodic and sing-along. ‘One-Word Answers’ has Charlie examining his past action in an emotive way, with intense drums crashing around him while he says the title over and over again. ‘Former Glories’ appears to be a timely assessment as Charlie embodies an award-winning character who’s decided he doesn’t deserve any of awards he won in the past. It’s dark and intimate and finds Charlie admitting (while being backed by a vocoder): ‘I hope I’m never found’.

Among the infectious handclaps and group vocals, ‘All I Have’ provides a fascinating insight into the life of a touring musician as Charlie talks about how work can bring him down ever when he’s playing to thousands of adoring fans. He then reassesses this call as he vows to make the most of his talents: ‘It’s all I have, even though it scares me half to death’. The piano balled ‘The Weather’ closes the album and this is a fitting finale to what has come before. Charlie chats about the weather for the first minute or so before then going back on himself: Listen to me rattling on’. Gospel backing vocals join the fray when Charlie admits: ‘I tried to keep myself together but things change like the English weather’.

This is an album full of emotion, warmth and refreshing dips into different genres. It’s one you’ll want to dip into time and time again.

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