Review: The Glass Eyes - "The Ocean's Over There"

The Glass Eyes - The Ocean's Over There
(2017 Self-Released)

The Ocean's Over There is an index of outros. Though most of the LP's nine tracks span two or more minutes, The Glass Eyes' recent crop of folk-rock output is marked with a sense of conclusion. Fragmented phrases that feel as if they've been harvested from a larger yield of lyrics are stretched like chewed gum across climactic soundscapes. It's this constant, sustained catharsis that makes the Chicago trio's new record so replayable. Each song begins in medias res or later, sparing introductory filler while doubling down the sort of emotionally-charged chorus-craft and experimentation usually reserved for crescendos. There’s a constant hint that what you’re hearing is a small fragment of an unheard whole. So many indie rock acts are compared to Neil Young that I've gone to great lengths to avoid bringing up the Canadian singer-songwriter's name whenever I can. It'd be impossible to review The Ocean's Over There, however, without doing so. "This music's really good! / Those dudes can play! / That song sounded like Neil Young," reads The Glass Eyes' Bandcamp bio. All three quoted statements are true, especially the last. Inaugural tune "Hey" fuses Young's penchant for sitar-like tapestries with the atmospheric crunch of mid-90s acts he inspired: the song's title is chanted over a cloud of psychedelic warble, which subsequently bursts into a flurry of overdriven feedback that drifts from Built to Spill to Dinosaur Jr. on the fuzz spectrum. Frontman Chris Jones' vocals - twangy, in the way that Mark Mulcahy's anti-southern drawl resounds - are absorbed into the sponge of guitars. As the instrumental feeds on its nutrients, it continues to grow in intensity. The same "Hey" and the same riff are repeatedly hammered into tape, each iteration slightly more more sincere than the last. "Hey" is a greeting, then a cry for attention, then a plea to stop. "Hey / I'm only trying to be." "Spend It Alone" is even more frugal with its syllables, draping its four-minute arrangement in seven unique words. Hollow synths that screech like rusted machinery do much of the track's talking, scuffing the surface of each layered harmony. Jones resembles Amen Dunes here, his chants spookily dissonant as they contort and fade into the nocturnal air. The Ocean's Over There hits peak folksiness on "Boxing", imbuing Fleet Foxes' sacred woodland atmosphere with a groovy optimism. It gives the impression of mystic grandiosity while staying grounded in garage rock grime. Like much of The Glass Eyes' music, it's suggestive of something greater, just enough to seize your curiosity.