Oh Wonder – Ultralife
Second albums are notoriously perilous, and hotly anticipated records rarely live up to the hype. Two well documented facts that have been a constant cause of consternation for music fans for decades. Having released the gold standard of electropop with their eponymous debut, the pressure was certainly on for Oh Wonder to release a thrilling follow-up. All things considered I’d say this loveable duo have done well to weather the storm, but Ultralife still falls short of living up to its predecessor. While their debut was hit after hit, likely helped by their unique approach of releasing it one song at a time, Ultralife is a more subdued affair. It’s undeniably likeable, but is a bit short on those “wow” moments.
‘Lifetimes’ is the record’s only real misstep as it breaks up the trademark harmonies for the verses, but it is quickly followed up by album highlight ‘High On Humans’ which stands as one of their finest creations yet. ‘All About You’ plays around with some soulful undertones, ‘Bigger Than Love’ is a more stripped back affair putting the gorgeous vocals at the forefront, while ‘Heart Strings’ has a more refined and elegant feel. There are a few too many filler tracks to contend with, but nothing that would suggest the record is anything more than just a slight bump in the road. Oh Wonder aren’t quite firing on all cylinders but the magic is far from gone, I’m sure they’ve got plenty more world-class records up their sleeves to secure their place as the defining electropop act.