Oceanique – Would the Light Hold Me – LP Review
Winners of the 2022 Folk Alliance Australia “Youth Artist of the Year” award, twin sister duo Oceanique (Maddy and Jess Houston) reminds Vodka of sister duo Lily & Madeleine that found their way to the Vodka platform back in 2013, or pop-folk duo First Aid Kit. They have beautiful voices, close harmonies, and wonderful stories to tell. Enter Heavy (seen/heard here) from the duo’s debut LP Would the Light Hold Me (March 29, 2023). The two have been releasing singles since at least 2019.
Oceanique is loaded with talent. The Houston sisters wrote the lyrics and took on instruments (Maddy on acoustic guitar and Jess on piano and harmonium) for all of Would the Light Hold Me. Each track is thought-provoking and authentic and falls mostly in the slow to mid-tempo range. In fact, that would be my only suggestion for LP two, to change up the tempo a little bit. It is hard to find fault with these comfortable songs as a debut LP. There are other instruments and musicians on the LP, but to their credit, they all know they are background. Perhaps that is a testament to the production (recording and mixing) of James Newhouse, who also picks up backup guitar and drumming duties throughout the LP. Understanding that the vocals are the most important thing and letting those shine through the production is a talent, not many producers can actually lay claim to these days.
As with all LPs where I’m basing my feelings on the music and the lyrics, what follows may or may not be what the artists are trying to convey. I am only mentioning a few songs. The lead-off track, Anything At All, deals with knowing that a relationship is at an end, but like a catastrophe on the news, you can’t break away clean, you’ve got to watch it to the end. Just Like This deals with finding beauty where you are. Growing up and leaving our parents, it seems, is the overreaching theme of Like I’m Living:
“There is a long road between us
I thought the space would help me grow
As a person, as a daughter
I find myself, I find myself
In it all sometimes, contemplating life
I’m trying to figure out why, people run from things
Why I’m running, why I
Thought I needed space to feel
Like I’m living, like I’m living”
There are eleven tracks on Would the Light Hold Me dealing with expansive subjects, that only the artists themselves know the meaning to. That’s just as it should be. Listeners are often challenged to determine what a song means to them on a personal level, and that turns out to have more significance to them than if the artist put it down in black and white.
One of the most beautiful tracks on the LP (to be fair, they are all beautiful!) in Vodka’s biased view, is Dancing in a Crowded Room. I can’t tell you why, exactly. It has the close harmonies of the rest of the tracks on the LP, but there is something more intimate and personal here:
“Can you hear me, can you hear me
In your sleep I’m trying to fill, the silence within this room
Can you see me, can you see me
In your dreams we’re dancing in a crowded room and my hands are holding onto you
And I don’t want to leave
And I don’t want to leave
Don’t let me leave, don’t let me leave”
You can find more information on Oceanique by heading up to their nicely formatted website. Everything is there, streaming, social and purchase links, tour information, a press kit, and a contact form.
Oceanique’s debut LP Would the Light Hold Me provides a firm foundation for twin sisters Maddy and Jess Houston to formulate a musical history going forward that has great promise. Their vocals never cease to please, full of close harmonies and beautiful melodies. Their music is rich in the folk storytelling tradition, painted lightly with the elements of modern musical styles. While the tempo of the music on Would the Light Hold Me is fairly one-dimensional, the songs themselves are lyrically diverse. Since this is a debut LP, there is plenty of time to build from this wonderful foundation and experiment with different tempos in the future.
Check out this great folk duo now, and pick up Would the Light Hold Me from Oceanique’s store or bandcamp.com site.