Thee Oh Sees are by no means a new group, with years of experience under their belts, and this years release Floating Coffin marks the groups 12th studio album, technically. The 4 members that currently play in the group have been together since 2008, and lead man John Dwyer has been doing his thing since ’97, so there is a fair amount of experience among this group based out of San Francisco. Since they became a solid lineup in 2008 they have been releasing records on a steady basis, having released 6 in that time, not including 2013’s addition. Though many of their past releases have been enjoyable, there is something undeniably powerful about their newest, Floating Coffin. It garners a great mix of upbeat garage rock tunes, psychedelic jams and post-punk drizzles, and like the album cover suggests, it’s a freakin’ party.
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Whether it’s because of the group’s long history or that they took a different approach on this album, Floating Coffin is an eclectic listen that is equally dizzying and calming. The album kicks off with the fast and accessible grooves of “I Come From The Mountain”, which is driven by a fast and frantic guitar melody, giving the album immediate momentum before calming into the fuzz-rock jam “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”. These songs transition flawlessly, and display a nice spread of fast and fun moments with gentle and soothing ones. The single “Strawberries 1 +2” also shows this mix perfectly by meandering between a garage-rock style riff and the slow, psychedelic stylings of the bridge. While Thee Oh Sees have always shown a wide range of influence in the past it seems that each is set to the perfect level throughout these songs. This mix not only serves to add variety, but allows for many different memorable elements to drive the songs, from the flute used on “Tunnel Time” to the gorgeous strings on the album ender “Minotaur”, to the synthesizers present on the darkest, most alluring single off the record “Night Crawler”.
What stands as the most unique track on Floating Coffin is easily the post-punk coated jam “Night Crawler”. Lined by deep, dark guitars and keys, the songs carries a slow and weary pace, and Dwyer’s Interpol-esque vocals add to it perfectly. A lot of reverb is used for the vocals on this track too, which is a tool that Thee Oh Sees use very well. Even though this track stands out stylistically, it manages to fit perfectly with the other songs on Floating Coffin. The eccentricities and stylistic changes shown earlier on the record make this track easily attractive and pleasing. Plus, you are returned immediately to the groups unique blend of lo-fi rock once the following track “Sweet Helicopter” kicks in.
These guys have been crossing genre boundaries for a long time now, but given the wide range of musical influence present on Floating Coffin, they aren’t going to stop any time soon. Only composers like John Dwyer can mix a fluffed pop-rock track like “No Spell” with a straight garage-rock song like “Floating Coffin” and make them sound cohesive. Not only do the sounds fit together, it still sounds like the 4 of them are having a great time together through a FIDLAR-esque kind of outlook. Also, considering the time it took to write this record, (Putrifiers II came out on September 11, 2012) there is a great deal of talent within this 4-piece. Floating Coffin is a mosaic of everything that Thee Oh Sees have done up to this point, as well as one of their best and widest-scoped releases. They’ve also managed to find a perfect visual representation of the groups energy and aberration with the albums cover, which I find weirdly hypnotic.
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