Today’s artist spotlight is on the London duo known as Oh Wonder. Their sound is mellow, yet captures your attention the second the first beat plays.
Their debut self-titled album came out on Sept. 4, 2015. The 15-song album features songs as a product of independent recording sessions, where their mission was to write and release one song a month, according to Billboard. The duo did not step on a stage to play the songs for fans until after releasing much of their music already.
They garnered attention in the most humble of ways—they released songs on the streaming site Soundcloud and garnered millions of song streams, gaining the attention of Republic Records who ultimately signed them for their debut release.
Oh Wonder is composed of singer/producer Anthony West and singer Josephine Vander Gucht. The songs are minimalistic consisting mostly of understated, yet detailed electro beats with quirky intricacies, soothing electric piano or piano progressions and light distorted filters on their otherwise intimate and soft-spoken voices.
Although fundamentally their music can be classified under “singer/songwriter,” their production value and intertwined vocals create an atmosphere unique to the duo. Almost every line of every song has octave harmonies between West and Gucht. With all their production, it’s restrained brilliantly to maintain a chilled trance despite the use of synths. The songs carry an authenticity that stays true to their formative moments as a duo.
“The whole project started as a songwriting exercise because we’d been writing together for a while and had never done anything with our songs. We wrote ‘Body Gold’ and thought, ‘Hey, let’s put it out ourselves,’ keep it as a side project and set ourselves a deadline every month to release another song. That way we had to write 13 songs. It wasn’t a marketing plan,” Gucht said in an interview with Noisey.
Standout tracks from their self-titled debut are “Lose It,” “Livewire,” “The Rain” and “Body Gold.” These songs can be streamed on Spotify and/or purchased on iTunes.
Oh Wonder has mastered the art of letting the songwriting shine through despite complex production. Instead, the production bolsters the emotional moments on the album and allows the listener to have a levitated listening experience. Although many of the instrumentals are light and airy, pulsating textured bass-lines and horn sections add another layer of texture that challenges any notion of pigeonholing what Oh Wonder is willing to experiment with sonically.
The album deals with very personal thoughts and doubts. In an interview with Noisey, Gucht described the album as, “Two songwriters who write about love, loneliness, London, community, gentrification and gambling.”
The album is comforting and can come across as a conversation directly to the listener. In their song “Landslide” they sing, “Every time that you’re lonely / And every time that you feel alone / I’ll be there for you.” The album deals with internal feelings and frustrations, especially noticeable in songs like “Landslide,” but they’re also an outlet for advice both for themselves and their fans.
Oh Wonder is a group of duality. They’re humble yet bold, soft yet textured, pensive yet comforting. Although many of their songs carry a similar vibe of hushed-down introspection, each song and the album at large distinguishes itself as a unique piece of art.