Boxer Rebellion is a band that you may have already heard and not even realized it. They've been releasing music since 2003 and have had their music featured on popular shows like, One Tree Hill, WWE Raw, Batman: Arkham City, and Greys Anatomy. On their latest album, Ocean by Ocean, The Boxer Rebellion seeks to create an album that drummer, Piers Hewitt described as being able to "[stop] people in their tracks." But is The Boxer Rebellion able to live up to such lofty goals?
The first track on Ocean by Ocean opens with the grandiose intro entitled "Weapon." Built on a three chord synth structure which then develops into the entirety of the band falling straight into the synth-pop indie groove, "Weapon" focuses on lead vocalist and Boxer Rebellion songwriter, Nathan Nicholson singing about an individual thats caught within a world that is designed to control the people that live within it. The maximalist simplicity of this opening track gives what couldve been an otherwise preachy opener an ample amount of depth.
2. BIG IDEAS
The strength of "Big Ideas" comes from its arrangement and relatable lyrics. The theme of the song isn't complex and that's a good thing. Nicholson is talking about a past lover that he met, but he wishes that they had met at a time when he wasnt tainted by past experiences. (I feel you man. I feel you.) The arrangement of "Big Ideas" is similar to the opening track until the run time goes a little over halfway, and the song hits its bridge. The instrumental arrangement of the bridge isnt atypical which makes the song feel a bit monotonous, but during the bridge, instead of having new lyrics introduced the band returns the chorus, which helps to give this track a sense of individuality.
3. LET'S DISAPPEAR
"Lets Disappear" centers around its inescapable hook that you just want to keep coming back. This is indie pop at one of its finest moments. It sticks to its guns, adds an instrumental breakdown toward the end, and gives the listener a slightly left-field hook that feels right in the song's entirety. Sorry if this one isn't cool enough for the kids that want to go against the grain, but it's definitely a single-worthy track.
4. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER
Much respect to whoever arranged the transition from "Lets Disappear" to "Pull Yourself Together". As the feel good groove of "Let's Disappear" dissipates, into "Pull Yourself Together" with what sounds like a synth or sample being pitched down, the album introduces its first slow jam. Having these two songs back to back feels like Boxer Rebellion captured the magic of having an A and B side of a 45 rpm record. (All the crate-digging hipsters will know what Im talking about with that reference.) Overall, Pull Yourself Together feels like a plea, but Nicholson never quite lets us know who hes talking to and thats okay.
"Firework" very much feels like the followup to "Pull Yourself Together," but it doesn't capture the magic in quite the same way. The lyrics touch on similar subject matter of focusing on someone that isnt quite put together but has the potential to be. While "Firework" is still a good song, it isn't a standout on the album.
6. KEEP ME CLOSE
The synth bass on this song sets the tone for a much needed production change on the album. While it still retains the glossy feel of a refined indie-pop band, "Keep Me Close" instantly has a more gritty feel. On a lyrical and production end the song feels like its focused on a leap of faith and Boxer Rebellion transcends the leap on "Keep Me Close". In this song, Boxer Rebellion reintroduces their recipe for presenting the bridge with every medium except for the vocals, and once again it works. By keeping the reprise of the chorus at bay, Boxer Rebellion create a feeling of change but by keeping this element similar to "Big Ideas" makes this song feel right at home.
On "Redemption" Boxer Rebellion makes a song that sounds like the perfect fit for an Arcade Fire type of band, however, the big band feel that Boxer Rebellion accomplished on "Redemption" is still able to remain personal with Nicholson's constantly down to earth lyrics. Overall, "Redemption" feels like a solid end of the set song. Not necessarily the most memorable on the album, but it's good nonetheless.
8. The Fog I Was Lost In
"The Fog I Was Lost In" is another single worthy song that makes great usage of synth layering by reversing the intro synths and always having at least two different patterns occurring throughout the song. Outside of the nerdy technicalities, this song truly has an anthemic chorus that is both festival and maybe even radio (which is still somehow a big deal) ready.
9. YOU CAN LOVE ME
Pleading for love sounds so sweet on "You Can Love Me". What is essentially another love ballad is given weight by the two heavily panned guitar tracks that are boosted by the addition of reverb. What makes this song even more heartfelt is Nicholson's singing of "you have the choice" to his lover. It gives this song an extra layer of tenderness and of course endless replays this summer. Kudos to Boxer Rebellion for being able to make the longest song on the album feel like another 3-4 minute jam.
10. LET IT GO
The introspective nature of this song makes it fitting for a record that clearly set out to be intimate, through and through. Once again, Boxer Rebellion is able to find single worthy magic on the final track of their album. Having the last words be "I choose to be happy" is a great end to a a very good album. Congrats Boxer Rebellion, youve made an album thats accessible for both the indie and pop kids.
Overall, Ocean by Ocean is an ideal summer album for the Indie kids to play through and through, several times. While not perfect, its still worth streaming or actually buying, if people in my generation still do that sort of thing.
Rating: 4/5 Stars