Basking in the Glow, because of its inability to add any new element to this formula, can only manage nostalgic stasis.
Oso Oso is band stuck in time. Part of the so-called “emo revival” – a group of acts that could include Car Seat Headrest, Into It. Over It, Hop Along and The Hotelier depending on who you ask – the “band” is really the solo project of Long Beach, NY native Jade Lilitri.
Most bands that get grouped under the “emo revival” tag – which has become lazy critical shorthand for a group of bands that sound different from one another but maybe listened to Brand New, Jimmy Eat World and Sunny Day Real Estate – have objected that there is no revival happening. They say the scene never stopped, the music press just lost interest. This is a meaningful criticism of the way that music writers construct narratives around artists they like (or don’t) in order to get articles published on websites and, thus, make a living. And if you have spent any time in the last ten years seeing shows at local venues in Midwest cities whose population is less than 500,000 you will likely recognize the truth in it.
Oso Oso does the least of these groups to change that sound, settling for recapturing it. Among his contemporaries, Lilitri stands out as the musician most wedded to recreating classic-era (roughly 1995-2007) emo. His music is less of a revival than an exhumation. His third full-length release under the moniker, Basking in the Glow is a perfect example of what Lilitri is trying to create. It would, perhaps, be unfair to judge the record on other terms than those which it sets for itself and on that score, one could be told the record was from 2005 and it could easily be believed.
Even on those terms, the record still lacks, however. The mix is unappealingly flat (many records from the ’00s sound far more vibrant, such as The Starting Line’s Direction, for example) so the “highs” on each track do not have the impact that they should. The vocals are the only element given clarity. The songs do pack some catchy hooks, though. The title track in particular is an earworm. “One Sick Plan” has a pleasant, home-recording feel to it. The guitar riff and programmed beat that opens “Impossible Games” is reminiscent of Modest Mouse, but lacks the restless, acidic weirdness that marks that band at their best. Closer “Charlie” musters a stirring dynamic change toward the end of the tune that makes one wish the album that preceded it could live up to its closing moments.
The lyrics are often sentimental – dipping into cliché, “Got my hand in your hand and my head in the clouds,” on album-opener “Intro” – the rhymes are often obvious – “So back up on the carousel/ This one’s spinning straight to hell,” from “Wake Up Next to God.” While unvarnished feeling is the raison d’etre for the entire genre, it is still not an excuse for tired expressions like these.
Basking in the Glow is a meticulously constructed edifice to the idea of a particular moment in rock music. It sounds as if the last fifteen years of music – across genres – has not happened. And, sure, there is something impressive about the album’s mimicry. However, emo – or pop-punk or whatever you want to call it – is supposed to move you. It is meant to be cathartic in its naked emotionalism, but Basking in the Glow, because of its inability to add any new element to this formula, can only manage nostalgic stasis.