– by Isadora Jarosek
Five-piece outfit The Ocean Party have spent the last few years cementing their reputation as one of the east coast’s most promising indie pop offerings. Emerging in 2009 from the heat of Wagga Wagga in a haze of lush arrangements and nostalgic melodies, the band have been on an (almost) constant roll of songwriting and recording since 2011. They relocated to Melbourne in search of a fresh scene to encourage their music and they certainly found it, releasing three albums culminating in 2013’s Split, a shining example of sweet and sunny guitar-pop with a raw, honest edge.
A more sophisticated outing, Soft Focus is their fourth album and their second with Spunk Records. The same breezy, guitar-heavy vibes that define their sound are still very much present, but a new grace has emerged from the more consistent recording and mastering process. The songwriting also sees a tread into slightly more serious territory, albeit with an easygoing approach; The Ocean Party never falls too far from their signature agreeable tunes and inoffensive lyrics. In fact, Soft Focus could not have a more fitting title, serving as quite the compliment to the dreamy guitar licks and hazy synth overdubs of this wistful album. Nothing seems unnecessary or ill-fitting; like an aural watercolour painting, all the gentle hues blend just as they should.
The woozy opening track, ‘Went Out’, is a real morsel of tender self-reflection, referencing youth spent in a country town and the motions of life. A chorus of trumpets sends it off into the sunset, having set the tone for the rest of the album. Soft Focus’s leading lady single ‘Head Down’ wastes no time, breaking straight into a cracking pace and ending in the throes of a seamlessly woven saxophone solo. Deluded is the third track to really listen out for; the simple opening and somewhat deadpan vocals give way to an elegant but sharp pearl of a tune that you’ll be singing along to in no time.