Ought is a mathy post-punk quartet from Montréal, but not one of its members is even Canadian. They formed in 2012 when singer/guitarist Tim Beeler Darcy, (New Hampshire) joined forces with keyboardist Matt May (New Jersey) and drummer/violinist Tim Keen (Australia). They shared a living space and a rehearsal space together and were later joined by bassist Ben Stidworthy (Oregon). Inspired by the likes of Chicago emo/math/punk band Cap’n Jazz and its many derivations (Joan of Arc, Owls, American Football, Owen), the four guys played a show and recorded their first EP in their space.
They quickly gained some popularity in the Montréal DIY scene, got involved in some music collectives, and were eventually signed to the venerable Montréal label Constellation Records, which is anchored by post-rock stalwarts Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Ought’s first record More Than Any Other Day came out in the spring of 2014 and was met with critical acclaim. They quickly followed that with the Once More With Feeling EP in the autumn. They hardly wasted any time getting their sophomore long-player done, and it’s set to be released via Constellation on September 18.
When Deerhunter canceled all of their summer dates including the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival, the Hopscotch organizers quickly got Ought to fill the hole in the lineup. And it works perfectly since that time slot was on the first night of the festival, opening for their labelmates Godspeed on the main stage. More on this in a bit.
A couple of the songs on the forthcoming album have been kicking around for a while, and this is one of them:
“Beautiful Blue Sky” by Ought
Right away, they take a chapter from a page from The Cure’s book. It’s probably not a deliberate homage, but the fact that there’s just over a minute of instrumental intro before the vocals kick in makes me think of nearly every song by The Cure. Ought doesn’t sound very much like The Cure, but I can’t help but think of them there.
Later in the song, I’m reminded of another band that Ought doesn’t sound like. I’m reminded of Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement. In the chorus, Tim Peeler Darcy quickly repeats a few phrases several times. Maniacally, almost.
I feel alright (x8)
How’s the family (x4)
How’s your health been (x4)
Fancy seeing you here (x4)
Time and off again (x4)
Beautiful weather today (x4)
It continues on, and at some points, it kind of sounds like the rapidly repeated phrases are melding into something different. In that way, I’m reminded of “Conduit for Sale” by Pavement, in which Stephen Malkmus repeats “I’m tryin'” 16 times each time through the chorus after each rapid-fire, almost spoken-word verse. It’s a little nerve-wracking, and I can see why it would put people off. Even some Pavement fans are annoyed by that bit. At some point, though, it’s hard to tell whether Malkmus is screaming “I’m trying” or “I’m sorry”. And I’m certain that there’s an intentional blur there. We’re not here to talk about Pavement, though.
The song closes with the lyric
I’m no longer afraid to die
Coz that is all that I have left
I’m no longer afraid to dance tonight
Coz that is all that I have left
… which is at once hopeful and hopeless.
After that, there’s more than two minutes of instrumental outro, which takes a little bit of the edge off. In the end, it’s a really fantastic song from a great album.
Watch this video, which picks up this song as the last song of their set at the Paris Pitchfork Festival last year
You can pre-order Sun Coming Down via Constellation here.
With the lineup change, Ought will kick off the Hopscotch Festival, which is now just a little more than two weeks away. See the lineup here, the full schedule (subject to some last-minute changes) here, and get full ticketing info here.