by Craig Howieson
Riding the crest of emo’s fourth wave, Oso Oso along with others – such as The Hotelier, Joyce Manor and Tigers Jaw – rescued the genre from a false limelight. A once humble and brutally honest enclave appropriated and then crushed by its own aesthetic; Emo had become a derogatory slight, a tag given to any major alternative act that loosely fit the description and, in turn, something from which many tried to distance themselves. For those who cherished its beginnings and evolved with it, they are now leading the charge in reinstating the genre’s focus, overseeing a return to something purer.
With Oso Oso, Jade Lilitri has long reflected emotion within sound, encapsulating his feelings through music as much as with the words in his lyric book. Listening to his records is to join in the inscrutable turmoil of an exasperated, exhausted existence. Oso Oso is a band for those in the shadows, stepping in from the fringes in search of a sonic solidarity.
Oso Oso’s second record, The Yunahon Mixtape, in spite of its lyrical bleakness, was a celebration of emo’s finest moments. Described by Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen as “a seamless collage borne from college radio crate digging between 2001-2004”, Lilitri proved himself to be studiously well-versed in the music he was making, and tentatively aware of his place within it. While its carefully stitched tapestry of the genre’s surging hallmarks may have been a homage to his heroes, it was so well executed and reflected enough of his own ambition that it saved him from pastiche. Still, it was difficult to overlook the long night that stretched over the lyrics. There was a distant sadness residing at the album’s celebratory core. A struggle to find hope. A lost lament to stars blinking out for the last time.
Basking In The Glow bathes in many of these similar themes, but within the marrow of its bones there is an enduring resilience. As Lilitri sings “future I can’t see / I’m trying to find my own two feet” on ‘a morning song’, he hints at a new outlook, a desire to embark on a search for change.
A few seconds into album opener ‘intro’ there is an audible intake of breath. It reverberates with the nervous anticipation of someone who has something to share, but is still wrestling with whether they should. And with that we begin, ushered into twelve tracks of bustling radiance as Lilitri exposes old wounds before bandaging them back up to swing for the bleachers in deft defiance.
On ‘The View’, he refuses to wait for light to permeate the darkness, instead venturing out to find it for himself: “My eyes lit up when I saw it / the view from where you sit”. This newfound sense of optimism is not confined to his words. Peppered throughout Basking In The Glow are syncopated swells, angular chords and hints of math rock. A peppiness counteracts anthemic climaxes, best witnessed on the intro to the album’s title track or the falsetto flourishes of ‘priority change’.
‘one sick plan’ is a rare moment of respite from the electric charge. It is a brief but disquieting pause. In anyone else’s hands it would be a simple heart-on-sleeve thrash through on acoustic guitar. Lilitri instead disguises its beauty, burying acoustic chords under a layer of tape hiss. As the levels are tweaked and panned from left to right, it’s a disorientating recalibration. The overwhelming effect is almost nauseating when played at volume through headphones. It’s evident the “sick plan” to save himself is going to be a battle.
Lilitri’s voice is one you’d swear you’ve heard a thousand times before but still can’t place. In his earnest, unabated lines there are a million memories of static-drenched songs coming through your car stereo, your favourite songs accompanying you to nowhere in particular. It only adds to the nostalgic simmer of Basking In The Glow. Even in the midst of crushing choruses there is a feeling of being in a safe space.
‘a morning song’ is a succinct reflection of the album’s content, a resplendent, towering anthem to drown out the nagging complexities of the day-to-day. It is the sound of a light bulb filament glistening into life, burning to a glow before a surge sends it shattering, the fragmented shards dancing like memories through your mind.
One criticism that could be levelled at the record’s predecessor, The Yunahon Mixtape, is that is played as such – a mixtape. The breathless way in which ideas were created and presented set it out as a collection of singles; favouring short, sharp bursts over the development of an album arc. This is not the case with Basking In The Glow. Although not without its insecurities, it hangs together as Oso Oso’s most coherent record to date, exuding a quiet confidence. As with many of the albums to emerge from the fourth wave, Basking In The Glow celebrates and is informed by emo’s past, embodying a return to a purity of message and an unashamed embrace of making an emotional connection through soul-baring expression. It is a more than worthy follow up to Mixtape and finds its place amongst recent classics such as The Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace Is There and Modern Baseball’s Holy Ghost.
A proponent of the catharsis of sharing, Lilitri is again unafraid to be vulnerable. From the moment we arrive in this world there is a ticking clock. When living and dying are distilled to be the same thing, how we view our lives becomes a matter of perspective. On Basking In The Glow, there is a determination to spend time embracing the moments in which to live, and be less distracted with inevitabilities and the fleeting impermanence of our footsteps on the earth.