Irish Alternative quintet O Emperor have recently released sophomore album Vitreous, on June 14th, and it has been gathering momentum amongst critics and audience since. Back in 2010, O Emperor gave us debut Hither Thither and took a small step towards Irish music royalty, going on to win the Choice Music Prize in their homeland and receiving love in the UK from 6 Music and XFM to name a few. The sound has progressed for Vitreous but you still feel it’s the same band to anchor any former fans. Grandmother Mountain kicks things off with a strangely familiar sound, this has either been used on a number of adverts or should be if not already. Grandmother Mountain and the following opening tracks lay down the foundations of an overall, operatic vibe. There is a hazy, summer feel to the songs that reminds me of a cross between Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles and early Flaming Lips. Poppy numbers such as Brainchild reek of summer cider and the bouncy organ solo recalls images of Paul McCartney skipping along a wall singing The Fool on the Hill.
The first problem for me as I am listening to the album a few tracks in is that the drummer sounds like he has left the studio to have a cigarette and was locked out. Hazy shakers and feather brushes dominate the background until they are finally replaced with a good strong beat for Contact. This is more like it, the beautiful echoey vocals float over a beat that could be pulled from an early Dizzee album and we have entered into a more Cold War Kids-esque feeling. Feet are tapping now and heads are trying to justle away from their respective shoulders – “I never made no boat for the sea”, ok man, whatever you say!
This pace stays up for a time, with slight dips such as Minuet. Land of the Living brings back a Beatles vibe again, although there are moments when they lean dangerously close to an ELO version of the Beatles. They are thankfully saved from such disaster from more poignant moments that reflect a possible love for Radiohead. This was the perfect time for O Emperor to release Vitreous as it is a fine soundtrack for a summer’s evening with your missus. Put on Soft to the Head and propose, and she’ll probably say yes for the hell of it. There will be plenty of people who appreciate this album and it is definitely one to check out on Spotify to see if you love it or not. Personally I wanted something that felt more relevant from O Emperor. This has somewhat of a dated feel to it, and dare I say it, it has moments of being plain bland. This is aesthetically matched with the dreary, brown album cover that reminds me of an old Athlete album cover. Who the hell are Athlete? ….. Exactly.