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EP Review: The Used’s “The Ocean of the Sky”

Posted by Kayla Tooma on 07/17 at 11:52 AM

Grade: A

Alternative rock band The Used has been hard at work lately.  After a three-year break after their fourth album in 2009, they released their fifth album Vulnerable and are preparing for their sixth album release this winter.  In addition to the upcoming album, the band just released a five-track EP titled The Ocean of the Sky.  The band will also be playing as a part of this summer’s Vans Warped Tour.

On the day of the release of the EP, the band’s Facebook page stated “The Used want to save the world. We have created an EP called The Ocean of the Sky that could possibly achieve this goal.  Establishing abolishment of class system hierarchy between artist and patron; an EP with a deep message; written by the people, for the people, with a conscious hope for a brighter future.”

The Used is best known for their singles “Taste of Ink,” “I Caught Fire,” “The Bird and the Worm,” “Take It Away,” and “All That I’ve Got”.  After their last single, “I Come Alive,” I was quite impressed with how the band has grown but still very much maintained their aesthetic.  They combined elements of hip-hop and dubstep into their hard rock and threw in a dash of circus-esque keyboards.  The Ocean of the Sky however is even more complicated, layered, and deeper than their previous album.  The EP begins as you would expect a normal collection of The Used’s music would—songs consisting of instruments, melodies, sung lyrics, and some awesome rock.  However, when you get to the middle of the title track “The Ocean of the Sky,” the entire album shifts into something completely different from anything I have ever heard.

Stream the new EP below:

The EP starts off with “Iddy Biddy,” a fast paced, catchy rock song that is very indicative of the band’s style.  The middle of the song is graced by lead singer’s Bert McCracken’s spoken poetry, which is a common, effective tool the band has used throughout their career.  McCracken’s lyrics and poetry are always pleasing to the ear with lovely sounds and thought-provoking ideas and words.  The music smoothly transitions to the next song, “Quixotica”.  “Quixotica” provides a heathy dose of rock to its listener with an awesome breakdown.  The final ‘traditional’ rock song on the album is “Thought Criminal.” The slow song of the EP, “Thought Criminal” is lovely with sway-along music, good vocals, and awesome lyrics.  Towards the end of “Thought Criminal,” the transition from the band’s usual rock songs begins.

While the three previous songs were strong and great rock songs, the two next and final tracks are by far the most artful and interesting of the EP.  They are quite long in length and filled with mostly unconventional sounds.  Although most people wouldn’t listen to them while taking a jog or driving their car perhaps, as pieces of art they are quite impressive and amazing to listen to while in pensive thought, on the beach, or laying in bed.

“Ocean of the Sky” is an interestingly structured song.  The first three minutes of the eight-minute song are filled with strong rock, a great beat, and awesome vocals.  Then the track takes an interesting, spooky turn with microphone feedback, ghostly vocals that are filtered in and out, guitar distortion, and screams.  This sound jumble is soon abruptly cut off by distant spoken words, an eerie static and feedback filled radio transmission that is somewhat unclear.  Towards the end, the voices become a little clear, and the words “fear is the little death that brings total obliteration” can be heard.

“Tethys”, the final song, a twenty-minute mass of sounds and music, is quite impressive.  The word “Tethys” means titan and is also the name of one of Saturn’s moons.  The song is certainly a titan in its length and impact, but it is interesting to think of it as being related to a celestial, alien moon.  The song in itself is quite foreign to what most people would expect as a song.  Gorgeous and haunting, the first two minutes are filled with quick beats and eerie back sounds, like the action scene of a horror movie.  The song then calms and reminds me of being at the beach at night, seeing the vastness and emptiness of the ocean.  The haunted calmness comes to a quick end with what sounds like factory machines.  Then the track takes you to a sound that is almost like something you’d listen to in order to fall asleep, but only if you wanted to ensure nightmares or meaningful dreams.  After eleven minutes, the static is back and sounds similar to harsh winds appear.  The song makes you feel like you’re in the wild, but the wild is a lonely abyss that while empty is also paradoxically filled with everything.  Church bells and deep, bass synths come into play as the song continues to give grandeur.  After a full minute of silence, the eerie sounds and synths come back and are like a roaring light that slowly fades to black at the end of the album.  The song almost makes you feel like you’re on Saturn’s moons, exploring the exotic landscapes.

The Used is a pretty consistent band in terms of releasing albums and collections like The Ocean of the Sky that are very much their style but they also are always experimenting with other elements.  The Used’s new EP, The Ocean of the Sky, is an impressive piece of work.  In just five tracks, the band gave us a myriad of music, sounds, and art unlike anything I have ever heard.  A thoughtful mix of their signature sounding rock and a healthy dose of experimental art that leaves the listener feeling they’re in a different part of space or the world.  After a delicious taste, I’m looking forward to their sixth studio album this winter.

{name} Author: Kayla Tooma
Bio: Kayla Tooma is a senior majoring in English at Penn State. She hails from the great island of Long Island, NY. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing piano, reading medieval literature, watching unhealthy amounts of space documentaries, and making some kind of lame pun. Her favorite genres include a variety of rock, pop, indie, and metal. Some of her favorite artists include My Chemical Romance, Lana Del Rey, Queen, MIKA, No Doubt, Lady Gaga, HIM, The Smiths, The Jane Austen Argument, The Beatles, Beirut, The Dresden Dolls, and The White Stripes. She also has a sweet spot for pop goddesses like Cher, Madonna, and Britney Spears.

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