Recommended Tracks: “More Time”, “Bottle It Up”, “Small Talk for Dead People”
Artists You May Like: Seratones, Thee Sacred Souls, Dakota Jones
When covid-19 was shutting down businesses and keeping everyone inside during 2020, our favorite artists were using that time to write about what they were going through. We ended up with songs and albums that focused on mental health, distance, the state of society… But indie soul band Oh He Dead went the opposite route. They used music as a way to get out of the funk they were in, finding happiness in the melodies and rhythms that unfolded. The result is their second studio album, Pretty, which is “just sublime, sexy-ass pop,” in the words of frontperson CJ Johnson. With tracks that focus on love, desire, and relationships, Pretty is a way to escape from the darkness within, a way to exchange quarantine blues for warmer, brighter hues.
Playing out like a breeze blowing through an open window, “Space and Time” opens the project. It gets into a love that is around for all occasions, CJ and guitarist-vocalist Andy Valenti singing lines like, “And if you’ll be my cherry blossom / I’ll be your honey bee” and “And I can’t wait to / And I just want to / Get you back again / Because / Your love / Sends me right through space and time.” The percussion and colorful guitar work bring a lightness to the funk pop track, and this lightness can also be found on “Bottle It Up.” A feel-good jam that is made for anyone experiencing a summertime romance, “Bottle It Up” describes the notion of taking this love and keeping it forever. Right away, CJ sets the mood with, “Bubblicious beach / Peanut butter sand / Cocoa butter man,” the delicious words enlightening the senses. Andy then joins CJ, their blissful harmonies taking hold as we hear, “‘Cause there ain’t no storm that we can’t weather / I know that we’ll always be together / And I’m gonna feel this way forever…but if I don’t / I just want to bottle it up.”
In order to get to a place where love can blossom so beautifully, we must first experience the intoxicating powers of desire and lust. On “California,” a private rendezvous takes place in the comfort of a hotel room in California. The funky riffs and rhythms sprinkled throughout the track are meant to get you out on the dancefloor and in the mood, especially with lines like, “San Francisco, let’s get disco / LA, let’s go play / San Diego, so en fuego / Sacramento, let’s get mental!” The electricity then flares up on the proceeding “Lightning Drunk,” where storm references come through to reinforce the notion of getting struck by lightning or hit by love. Over some funky bass riffs and dreamy percussion, we hear, “I can feel the pressure building up / Evaporate me / Explode me like a tree / I’m on fire” and “Shock me, baby / Get me in the mood / Electrocute me / With your attitude / Crazy thunder / Shake my windowpane,” the danger and excitement impossible to escape. The two tracks that really touch on desire, though, are “The Night Shift (9-5)” and “All Night (featuring Khemist).” The sensual lyrics and tropical sounds of the music make for an intimate experience on both tracks, experiences that involve patiently waiting to get off work to be with someone or screaming someone’s name throughout the night without hesitation.
Still, even if all is good and well, there are moments when questions and doubt interrupt the love and balance of the relationship. On “More Time,” CJ and Andy feel the complex emotions that arise when linked to someone. Wistfully, Andy observes, “I burnt my toast as I was staring into space / Lost my focus / Dreaming about your embrace / No one knows why I am acting this way,” caught up in his feelings. Towards the end, he admits, “Well I don’t want you to leave me / But I don’t want to be hurt again,” while CJ responds, “Well I think that I should leave you / ‘Cause I don’t want to hurt you again.” These conflicting feelings are also featured on the closing track, “Calling Out,” where CJ and Andy wonder if the love will endure. It is all about the way love is speaking to both parties and if there is a motive to act. The tension this brings only increases the more the track goes on, rising with each repetition of “Calling out to me / Calling out to you.” Will anyone answer?
As the name implies, Pretty is so alluring and interesting that you can’t ignore it or act against it. Its “euphoric pop” immerses you in metallics and pastels that awaken your fun-loving side, reminding you to embrace spontaneity or affection. Yet, there are more reserved thoughts and feelings that arise from the lyrics, like we hear on “Small Talk for Dead People,” touching on a deeper level. With Pretty, Oh He Dead encourage us to embrace whatever comes our way, especially those moments that make us feel loved and connected. In the end, it “doesn’t want your attention. It demands it,” as CJ says of the album.
You can listen to Pretty on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.
Catch Oh He Dead on the remaining dates of their tour with Devon Gilfillian here.