Our pals over at Stereo Sanctity chucked over a sneak peak to the new (and yet unreleased) Hey Genius by Oh Baby. With a name and title like that how could we resist? I throw on a pair of oversized headphones, climb a few flights up the fire escape and shoulder the door leading to the roof. It’s a foggy and damp late June night, the kind that bends and blurs the neon lights of buildings in the city around me. Through the pockets of light and pools of darkness the music filters through me and my journey into Hey Genius begins.
‘Cruel Intention’ pulses to life slowly fading up as my phone display fades out. Closing your eyes, you’ll imagine listening to this track following its sounds down dimly lit alleys skulking about for the source. Jen Devereux’s voice soon leads you to it. “You know the words you said to me, come from your mouth so easily/like I knew they would”, the latter recurring and with it you're drawn closer still, until, “fire on fire”, which this first full length release very much is.
A natural and mature next step from previous release, The Art of Sleeping Alone, Oh Baby’s debut mini album, Hey Genius tracks on solid production values loaded with synths, deep enveloping bass with the knife edge pop labyrinth that is Jen’s voice weaves through. Her vocals slip and slide between inky beats with a playful levity akin to the dance between honey badger and mole snake. As restrictions ease, lyrics like ‘I Need Somebody to Love Tonight’ repeat with a steadied pace of the lamp post refractions floating over your Uber’s windscreen, the excitement of the destination is on its way.
The reason I’m enjoying the album I find has much to do with elements it’s lifted from others like Twin Shadow’s older soundscapes with the moodiness of Boy Harsher coupled with Alison Goldfrapp’s once and not long-ago magnificent pipes. No to mention it also lends itself well to remixes, not that it needs them.
One irk with The Art of Sleeping Alone was that, like an asthmatic puffing on an inhaler after fitful gasps for air, its tracks just sort of come to an unnatural rest and are over before you know it. Hey Genius solves that. Not every song has to be a banger but, ‘L.I.A.R.’ the latest single to drop, and a slower tune, doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room when it comes to distilled aural pleasures. The track is long enough at just over four minutes with hooks for days.
The lull, if you can even call it that, doesn’t last long and Oh Baby blasts off with ‘High Teens’. I’m so convinced that there are elements of Goldfrapp’s Supernature in this song that I’ll have to hear Jen and Rick tell me, “No, there aren’t mate”, personally to believe it. The song’s drum and bass beats are psychedelic light show for your mind and ears. ‘Love is enough’ plays on repeat throughout the track but if it weren’t, this song would be a close second.
Rounding off the album with ‘In Her Car’, a slow burner, forces you to wonder what’s just happened. It’s got a ‘the lights just came on and the night’s over’ feel to it. It’s a solid track to end off on but although it technically isn’t waaaaay too short at just over four minutes it sorta feels that way. It ends the same way an ‘over the shoulder look’ is shot at you, far too quickly leaving a lingering impression.
After you inevitably rush out to listen to Hey Genius, I’d argue it’s important to stay objective rather than overly critical. It’s not groundbreaking, it is delightful though, expect pleasure. We’re getting the perfect length mid-summer. Short but packs a punch, and before you know it, it’s over. In a few months, one’ll come on again and you’ll shoot back to where you were when you first heard, the end of restrictions and abysmal weather (hopefully!!!). Hey Genius slices through the monotony with large swathes of musical fabric, there are bold moves lurking here. Jen’s voice is a great anchor for Rick Hornby’s unpredictable musical motion. I believe Oh Baby will keep moulting stylisticly with each release, which is already apparent. Hey Genius is an accomplishment to be proud of, like convincing your parents to buy you designer jeans with the compromise of having to roll up the cuffs and wearing a belt so you’ll have room to grow into them. Something gained nothing lost. Solid 7/10
A gig to release the album on Burning Witches Records, comes out July 23rd, is slated for the Lexington on the same day. Grab a seat for both.