Oneida - Happy New Year
If there's one thing you can't level at Oneida, eight albums in, is that they're boring. Always trying to move the American indie music scene forward, they've frequently looked outside their own borders and employed guest players on their albums not previous associated with rock music. This album is no exception, with Oneida being joined be a whole host of guests (Barry London, Shahin Motia, Phil Manley) but also by experimental pianist Emily Manzo (who did appear on their previous album "The Wedding").
Their influences are seemingly disparate and yet they channel them impressively. Though "Happy New Year" is no exception with it's many themes and sounds, the predominate influences here are Krautrock and electronica - songs bulge with drone-rock hooks and Sun-Ra inspired chants and repetitions with the odd flourishes of piano, keyboards and production tricks. Yet this is, by far, their most accessible work to date. The opening three tracks "Distress", "Happy New Year" and "The Adversary" are all very different slices of the Oneida pie and yet seem to be related through common themes and sounds which percolate through them.
"History's Great Navigators" thumps along with loose change rattling over beating drums and the vocal harmonies light and almost fluffy in nature. "Busy Little Bee" would be distant cousin to the prog-rock of Yes with its almost medieval combination of swirling vocals and strings. Yet "Reckoning" shows they can strips things back, a gentle acoustic intro opens out into something more sinister as the guitar feedback echoes from left-to-right and the vocals whispered as though they were recorded in an aquarium.
This is an impressive album, but falls just a little short of the free-jazz and experimental-rock benchmark that's been significantly raised by the latest TV On The Radio album. Where they've managed to fuse funk onto this apocalyptic take on rock music, there's none of that pure energy and catchy hooks that you could dance to here.
Despite this, Oneida have produced one of their best albums to date. An impressive slice of experimental music that has plenty of sounds and hooks to keep you interested and pervert the usual dirge of Rock Music.
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