I’m such a sucker for gentle albums of warm, vivid music. While I do love heavy, kinetic music; there is just something about a tender album that fills my soul. Oak’s new album “False Memory Archive” fits that description perfectly, and it really does flood my mind with light. The album releases through Karisma Records on October 19th.
Oak hails from Oslo, Norway. Their music has a pure quality to it that I usually associate with Scandinavia. The band consists of Simen Valldal Johannessen on vocals, piano, and keyboards; Sigbjørn Reiakvam on bass, acoustic & electric guitars, banjo, keyboards, and programming; and Øystein Sootholtet on drums, percussion, programming, and keyboards. The great Bjorn Riis of Airbag also guests on guitar.
Though I’m sure Oak isn’t influenced by any of these bands, I can’t help but hear them as a mix of Soup, Lunatic Soul, and Katatonia. That means there is a thick atmosphere, subtle accents, melodic layering, and this overall sense of darkness and wandering. The music is melodic and progressive, more in the pop sense than the typical rock sound. I’d even dare call them post-prog, utilizing progressive elements in new ways, and there is definitely a hint of shoegaze in there. Their music is moody, atmospheric, and very dark at points, and offers some very well written vocal melodies that stand out immediately. All in all, their style is fairly difficult to describe, even though it feels simple and refreshing while you hear it.
One thing I can say with absolutely certainty, though, is that their music is artistic and poetic, no matter the tone it takes. The vocal lines are part of this, being both subtle and full of hooks simultaneously, as can be seen on the addictive vocals from songs like “These Are the Stars We’re Looking For”. The artistry comes also from the dark yet hopeful lyrics. The lyrics are pure poetry, never coming across as cheesy or forced. They feel natural, convicted, and transparent about the human condition and the horrors we have spelt upon this world. The album is not preachy, but is instead edifying and encouraging.
There are nine tracks on “False Memory Archive”, but there are four specific ones that I want to discuss. First, “Claire De Lune” follows a wonderful opener, but grabs me because it is a subtle track that turns sinister in the second half. It ends with a vivid keyboard melody that transitions further into a soulful guitar solo. “Lost Causes” is similar in some ways. It is a fantastic track with a seriously dirty jazz build up that breaks like the tide on the beach. The resulting array of sax and piano is simply mesmerizing. I can’t tell if the sax is programmed or real, which I suppose is a good thing.
My two favorites come later in the album, though. “The Lights” follows a beautiful piano interlude, but it might be the darkest track on the album, which is ironic. It truly feels like a journey through shadows, hopelessly searching for the lights at the periphery of your vision. It’s moody, baritone, and so beautiful. The album ends with a call for help, called “Psalm 51”. It feels like a plea for forgiveness for the havoc we have wreaked on this planet. It’s a conviction to move forward, to start anew. The music reflects this with an emotional final act, created through space and atmosphere laced with accents of sax and keys. It’s a perfect way to end this album.
Oak have me sold on their style and content. “False Memory Archive” is glowing and brave, though it affects me differently than something brasher or heavier. The music is shadowy and graceful, offering plenty for your mind and your heart at the same time. If you are a fan of such music, you need look no further.
Find Oak online: