These last couple of years must have been some of the most exciting, most nerve-wracking in recent memory for Northern Beaches outfit Ocean Alley. After all, how on earth do you follow up a record like Chiaroscuro without falling victim to the hype?
When the band released their second album in March of 2018, it was clear they’d hit upon something special. With six singles released, four of which made it into the triple j Hottest 100 between 2017 and 2018, and “Confidence” managing to top the latter, Ocean Alley were on top of their game. In fact, you could very easily have forgiven them for taking stock of things, realising they’d achieved their goals, and deciding to pack it in.
One could only imagine the pressure felt by the group when they hit the studio. Sure, fans might have expected to hear something along the lines of “Confidence, Part 2”, and the band might have wanted to give it to them. But at the same time, any artist will agree that it’s important to grow and evolve musically, choosing not to tread water but swim laps ahead of what you’ve done previously.
Two years later, Ocean Alley have not only managed to exceed expectations with their latest record, but they’ve managed to set a new standard for what their music can be.
While singles such as “Stained Glass”, “Infinity”, “Tombstone”, and “Hot Chicken” had given fans a taste of what to expect with the release of Lonely Diamond, the end result is something far beyond what these singles hinted at.
From instrumental album opener “Dahlia”, it’s clear that Ocean Alley are going to be doing things a little differently this time around. Leading into the likes of “Tombstone”, the outfit manage to shift expectations immediately; this isn’t going to be a breezy, laid-back record of chilled-out jams, rather, it’s going to showcase their worth as one of Australia’s most accomplished and exciting bands on the scene.
Given their success in recent years, it could almost be expected that Ocean Alley’s new material might fall victim to the perils of self-indulgence, with each and every song pushing their winning formula to its absolute limit. However, the blissful inclusion of songs such as the album’s title track serve as a masterclass of restraint, with the group experimenting with a mixture of old and new styles, all while ensuring the tune doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Arguably, the album’s highlight comes around the half-way mark, with “All Worn Out” serving as something of a fierce ballad. In between its loose, jazzy exterior, the inclusion of brass amid its heartfelt lyricism show that Lonely Diamond is Ocean Alley managing to continually evolve, looking towards the future without alienating what their fans are here for.
Though some segments of the album may rehash old ground from time to time, Lonely Diamond is never a record that feels repetitive or dull, with every passage feeling carefully-curated to ensure that their fans get what they want, while also allowing Ocean Alley to move onto the next step.