On the band’s 2014 debut, More than Any Other Day, the big idea was the (near) title track, “Today More Than Any Other Day,” a driving sprint toward the eternal fountain of youthful optimism. On its EP later that year, Once More With Feeling, it was “New Calm Pt 2” that pulled attention like a black hole. That song was is of sneering, scathing takedown that is paradoxically specific and opaque enough to be applied to anything. Is it about scene politics? The rejection of sincerity? People taking pictures at rock shows? All targets are accepted, all are destroyed.
Sun Coming Down’s big number is “Big Beautiful Blue Sky.” It is a song that puts the band more in line with The Talking Heads than anything they’ve done before. Forget the vocal similarities and lyrical prowess for a second; one would be hard-pressed to come up with another band that tackles urban paranoia over the course of an entire career with as much pathos and seemingly tossed-off accuracy as Ought does in one seven-minute long song. It is, without question, one of the best songs of the year.
It isn’t fair to compare the band’s two albums, but such things are inevitable. More Than Any Other Day is probably the more complete of the two, but Sun Coming Down‘s highs are much higher. Ought is more willing to experiment with its form on its sophomore release. Tracks like “The Combo” and “Celebration” are diversions into noise-rock and straightforward post-punk that the band didn’t or couldn’t, bother with on its first album. Academically, it doesn’t matter that these tracks don’t work, because it is better for a young band to try and grow than it is for them to rest. That doesn’t make them any easier to listen to.
There are more than enough wonderful moments on Sun Coming Down to recommend it. “Men for Miles” is an assured, angular rocker that also serves as a better-than-average feminist anthem. “Passionate Turn” is the Serge Ibaka of the record; pulling more weight than first glance suggests, weakening the team in its absence. “Never Better” features some of the best lyrical delivery the young band known for its lyrics has put forth to date. These pieces are nice, but they all serve the big idea that Ought strives to reach its arms around once an album. As long as they keep putting their efforts in those heights, the rest is gravy.