Creature Native by The Ophelias is a very clever and intriguing album full of great songwriting, instrumental and vocal abilities. There are a myriad of influences and genres stirred together including dream pop, art rock, punk and more.
“Godless (Eva’s Hair)” is the best song on the album. Balancing counter-rhythms across guitars, voice and violin against a steady driving drum pattern, the song makes great use of contrast between long legato notes in the melody and the eighth note drive of the accompaniment. There is some inventive guitar playing and an excellent melody.
“Low” has a haunting melody and comes across as Aimee Mann meets Dolores O’Riordan. With a very catchy chorus and violins that achingly reach, the emotion is palpable and moving. “Ten Thousand” is a heavier song that features some excellent bass work. The soft-LOUD-soft dynamic of the song is effective in developing the song. The song transitions into a chorale at the end, wordless voices ascending and descending and make for a nice conclusion.
“Teeth” is based around a violin ostinato that contrasts itself against a multitude of different harmonies and instrumental patterns behind it. After Motown-ish quarter-notes on the snare break, the song really opens up into a very beautiful spacious texture before rocking out with emotive drum flourishes. Another wonderful contrast is the range shown between the violin and the singer whose voice goes quite low for certain parts of the song. The spectrum and contrast is exciting to listen to pulling at the seams of what’s going on sonically before assembling itself back together.
“Naomi” has a Camera Obscura vibe to it, if Camera Obscura was more of a punk band. The song transitions between a gallop and driving rock with some fierce drumming and bold bass lines against clean violin and vocals. Again, the chorus is very catchy and it could be a great power pop single. “All Hands on The Saw” is built around a fantastic bass/piano riff against samples of talking and laughing that slip in and out like moving through a crowded room or street. The song is curious and intriguing, the cacophony of the chatter emerging into a spoken word verse. The shaker and brushwork on the snare propels the song in interesting ways as well, changing textures and continuing interest.
Two songs are not quite as effective. “Gabriel” opens the album with fast guitar arpeggios, strong drum hits, lush string countermelodies and a vocal that has some Nico-esque inflections but some rushed scansion. The instrumental breaks are very clever and show off some great rhythms, but some of the lyrics could use a little simplification. The race to cram every syllable in tends to be at expense of the melody and distracting. There is also a cover of Jackson Brown’s “These Days” which tips the hat to Nico again. The cover is well executed with some great off-beat double-stops on the violin near the end and a descending bass line a la “The Weight,” but the quick tempo and blasé delivery loses some of the emotional context of the song.
“Adam’s Apple” closes the album with interweaving electric guitar lines and a drum pattern that moves back and forth from double time as if the heartbeat of the narrator is accelerating and hopeful. After a lush and dreamy beginning, the song explodes into a crescendo as the band rocks out making for a fantastic conclusion to a very clever album. Overall, it’s an intriguing listen, and the band truly shines when they trust their own instincts and commit to the songs.
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