Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Album Review: ohr, "Side by Side EP"

Artist: ohr

Style: Alternative/Indie/Folk
Release Date: January 6, 2017

As I wrote last week, Ohr is the brainchild of Jake Polansky, whose former band Yaakov Chesed was one of several in the mid-to-late-2000s looking to be the next Blue Fringe. I also wrote that he's the first frontman from that scene to try a solo comeback (though Jason P. from 3 Steps Closer has a solo album on the way, so look out for that). So, given the lack of precedent and the considerable time since his band's popularity, can Jake Polansky establish himself as a credible solo artist?

The EP gets off to a shaky start; opener "Wings" begins with what sounds like an unfinished demo composed with an off-tempo Casio keyboard preset, and the hokey lyrics about wanting to fly "to a place there's no hate / Only love reverberates" don't help matters. It picks up towards the end, however, with an echoey quiet passage that repeats "I'll soar above the burning flames" that builds into a much tighter variation on the chorus. The upward trend continues with the rousing Mumford & Sons-esque folk of "Brother" and "Red Light"; the brooding post-grunge of "Curb Appeal"; and closer "Another Way", which sounds like a bluegrass version of an Of Monsters and Men song.

Something that slowly becomes apparent over the course of the EP is the evolution Jake Polansky's undergone since we last heard from him. In Yaakov Chesed, his voice and persona were a little too clean and polished, his lyrics too formulaic and toothless, to match the heavier rock riffs his band was playing behind him. Here, however, his voice has considerably more harshness and emotional range, and his lyrics, while dealing with similar topics, have more variety, creativity, and depth put into them. "Red Light" and "Curb Appeal" deal with breaking out of complacency, while "Brother" and "Another Way" encourage listeners to overcome their differences and come together to change the world.

In the end, while Side by Side won't reinvent any wheels, it shows that Jake Polansky has what to offer beyond his earlier work and could prove the beginning of a very promising career. If you're a fan of creative, emotional alt-rock, Ohr is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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