Genre: Pop Rock, Emo
Favorite Tracks: “intro,” “the view,” “one sick plan,” “priority change,” “impossible game”
With the first few casual listens of Oso Oso’s new album BASKING IN THE GLOW, it failed to make an impression on me. The singles didn’t wow me and I worried the rest of the album might play the same. It wasn’t until a midday drive through Los Angeles that it clicked. Centerpiece “one sick plan” finally was given the stage it deserved: Here I am, winding through the sun-charred hills, 22-years-old, fresh out of college, 3,000 miles between my loved ones and me, and three months into a working world I was abruptly thrown into, wondering where I was going. Reality was upon me, and Jade Lilitri singing, “I don’t even know anymore / Well I see my demise, I feel it coming / I got one sick plan to save me from it” had solidified it.
Oso Oso, by many accounts, could be considered “summer-y”—“fun,” even. Tracks like “the view” and “wake up next to god” whip up undeniable energies with their uptempo drums and soaring guitars. Even “basking in the glow” plays as a nice paean to the end of the sunny season. But these are superficial qualities—Lilitri is anything but carefree. Throughout each song, themes of desperation, neurotic self-reflecting, vicious nostalgia, and a plea for what’s been lost are each explored; “a morning song” details the sudden moment life switches the tracks you’re on, and “impossible game” similarly sees Lilitri playing catch-up with the present, “Woke up living in yesterday / walked to the store, there’s a game to play.” Any references to former romance can be seen as a literal longing for the past itself, like on the titular track and again in closer, “charlie,” where the bygone is given a name.
The songwriting featured is perhaps Liltri’s most refined, cycling clever candor for opacity throughout. “I was leaning on something, no, I was leaning on nothing / didn’t know till I caved,” he realizes on “a morning song”; “intro” contains gems like “always coming up short cause you’re dreaming so small,” and “I got a hand on fire, if you know what I mean.” How Liitri strings his words together, there’s a belletristic quality, each one ambling into the next. The entirety of “priority change” and “the view”’s opening verse are but a couple of examples.
If there is a weak point here it’s the arrangements. Because of their straightforward pop rock armature, some of Oso Oso’s songs fail to truly distinguish themselves from each other (other than a salient difference in volume). Sometimes it seems like Lilitri’s only solution to this is resorting to layered vocals and spartan acoustics like on “intro” and “one sick plan.” It’s effective, but I’m nonetheless weary of how sustainable it is.
I remember talking to some grad student my last week of college in a bar and him telling me, “You know you think that the end of college is like a death sentence, like it hits you and you feel it. But it never really hits you. You just keep going.” It still sounds as admonishing now as when I first heard it, but now that I’m actually in it, it’s somewhat comforting. By the end of BASKING IN THE GLOW, it seems Lilitri has found a silver lining too: “I know how this ends / cordial and kind we play pretend / and in the end I think that’s fine / cause you and I had a very nice time.”