Cullen Omori

Omori’s makin’ a break for it. In the wake of Smith Western’s breakup, three of the five former bandmates have joined together to create chamber-folk group Whitney. On the flipside, Cullen Omori has signed to Sub Pop and has given us his debut record, New Misery – a mesh of dream-pop and indie-rock sensibilities.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t state that this is a record tailor-made for spring and summer vibes. Vibes that lend themselves to many listens on the porch, the stoop, or in a car with the windows down. While that airiness and haze are consistent throughout the album, there’s not much else to sink your teeth into. However, that doesn’t mean New Misery isn’t an enjoyable listen, fortunately.

Among the standout tracks, ‘And Yet the World Stands Still’ holds the most attention. Shimmering synths with fuzzed-out, reverbed guitar licks – full of whimsy. You’d swear that you were listening to a lost Flaming Lips track. ‘Cinnamon’ is New Misery’s clear lead single – complete with radio-friendly chorus, thick drums, and airy, dare I say, “vibes”. It’s a bit surreal to hear this track juxtaposed over Omori lighting Smith Western posters ablaze in the official music video. ‘Hey Girl’ plays to power-pop with gusto and ‘Synthetic Romance’ washes over you with its lush arrangements. The craftsmanship and earnestness of these tracks do not go unnoticed.

Even with New Misery’s standout tracks, some stretches of the album blur together – almost fading into the background. Atmosphere can make or break an album’s value, depending on the balance of the subject matter, song arrangements and, here’s that word again, “vibe”. Maybe that’s the value of New Misery. It is an album that you can put on to set and sustain a mood or feeling. Even in the album’s duller moments, the upbeat and contemplative mood is still very apparent. The album doesn’t jump around wildly with its subject matters. Omori doesn’t feel the need to fall into those trappings, so he reigns it in just enough to create a consistent tone.

New Misery is a solid debut solo record from Omori. He’s throwing out the reminders of his time with Smith Westerns. While this album was essential for his own growth, the path he takes next will be just as essential.