Sound — 6
OK Go formed in 1998 while the members were attending college in Chicago, and Chicago is also the city which they consider to be their "home town" due to so much of their early history occurring there, though they have all since relocated to Los Angeles. The band has largely become known for their choreographed music videos on YouTube, as well as involvement in various causes. "Hungry Ghosts" is the band's fourth studio album, and the first in 4 years (though having several years between albums isn't unusual for OK Go). "Hungry Ghosts" contains 12 tracks and has a runtime of approximately 42 minutes. "The Writing's on the Wall" was released as the band's first single, and also utilized a different producer, Tony Hoffer, than the rest of the album, David Fridmann. The band took a conscious step towards having a more "electronic" sound, and used Pro Tools and Reason, exclusively, to record their new album due to the ability to manipulate audio files within the software.
The album opens up with "Upside Down & Inside Out," which actually reminds me very strongly of the Sleigh Bells. The second track is the single, "The Writing's on the Wall," which has a very '80s type of flavor to it with electronic drums and such. "Another Set of Issues" starts out with a bass synth line, which is very catchy, but from there the song seems to kind of borrow stylistically from AWOLNATION, at least for the hook of the song. "Turn Up the Radio" is one of the most heavily electronic songs on the album - I'm not sure there are any actual real instruments used on this track. "Obsession" has a seething and dark vibe to it, and what I think is an actual, honest to goodness guitar part in it. "I'm Not Through" starts out with some video game noises and a lo-fi sampled bass playing a little riff, and this track borrows pretty heavily from Prince in style. Later on in the track there is a kind of freak-out solo section. "Bright as Your Eyes" opens up with an 8-bit bass synth type of sound, and at least later in the track has a really interesting guitar line which is a weird little melody. "I Won't Let You Down" sounds like it borrowed inspiration pretty heavily from the funk hit, "Celebration." "The One Moment" uses some real guitar and actually reminds me of OK Go at what I consider their highest point, with an almost less depressed Radiohead vibe to them. "If I Had a Mountain" is another track that sounds a lot like Prince to me, though mainly this is probably because of the vocal style of this track. "The Great Fire" starts out like a straight electronic track with an intense synth line running through it, though it does have a really excellent emotive guitar solo included on the track. "Lullaby" starts out with just an acoustic guitar and voices, which is a nice change, though it focuses mainly on the vocal harmonies than on the actual songwriting or instrumentation.
Lyrics — 7
Damian Kulash continues to provide lead vocals for the band, though he seems to be a little quicker on the draw with the almost falsetto style of vocals than on previous releases. The rest of the band continues to provide backing vocals, and in the case of some songs (such as "Lullaby"), there is some pretty extensive vocal harmonizing coming into play. As an example of the lyrics from the album, here are some from the lead single, "The Writing's on the Wall": "Listen, I know it's been hard/ You Know it's no different for me/ we're less than a zero-sum game now/ and baby we both know that's not how it's supposed to be/ The writing's on the wall/ it seems like forever/ since we had a good day/ the writing's on the wall/ but I, I just want to get you high tonight/ I just wanna see some pleasure in your eyes/ Some pleasure in your eyes." The lyrics aren't groundbreaking, but they're not a weak point in the album, either.
Overall Impression — 7
Largely, I feel like an essentially indie rock band who had a quirky streak with their choreographed videos suddenly turned into a boy band. Essentially, the album sounds like music created by "producers" in the studio with the members of the band just supplying auto-tuned vocals. For the record, as far as I know the band members "programmed" their own music, but that really doesn't make it much better. The songs on the album that have character to them honestly sound like they've written a song in "the style of" whatever other musician/artist. While a lot of people I know seem to really enjoy this album, I think it requires you to suspend disbelief to a certain extent. It is the same as ignoring the zipper on the monster in low budget horror movies, you can't peek too much behind the curtain. A more positive outlook on the album is that it is very eclectic in sound with pop rock, electronic, pop and funk songs included on the album. My favorite song from the album is very easily "The Great Fire," both for an infectious synth line, as well as the very emotive guitar solo included on the song.