Photo via Facebook by Jens Juul
With a title like “Travelmate” I was really hoping this record would be exactly what it says on the tin: something to accompany one on a journey, to lose yourself inside with headphones on. I needed to wait to find the perfect setting to listen to such a thing. I think I found it on one Friday late afternoon – hopping on a train to the middle of Jutland as the grey autumn sky gave into darkness over the swaying of a half empty train.
I suppose when you think of “travel albums” you might picture something like Tom Petty’s Into The Great Wide Open or Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty. Really the only similarities between this Copenhagen indie group and the lens-flared Americana road rock of those guys, is solid songs and space. ONBC’s new LP abounds with both I’m happy to say. Travelmate may not be a good selection for blasting through the desert in an American muscle car with your arm dangling out of the window – but for a quick commute or even a late-night walk home from the pub, it does the job perfectly.
The opening track – “Travelmate (Camber Sands)” actually gives mention to such a journey: “Empty Copenhagen streets evaporate to laughter in the night”. We’ve all been there. Substitute Copenhagen for “Aarhus Centrum” and we’ve got almost every night out for me recently. The dreamy opening to this fine record sets the scene for an incredibly substantial and comforting musical journey, whether you’re static or not. Multiple layers of clean guitars, distortion and what sounds like steel drums over subtle beats paired with the enchanting vocals of (one of the two) young ladies singing, gives you a warm fuzzy feeling as you turn your collar up to the cold and trudge on.
“Pitch Black Night” continues appropriately in the mid-tempo march vein. Perfectly executed dives of tremolo and the masterful blend of synths and guitars over unobtrusive but tasteful percussion build to a tasty chorus. These tunes are well put together and concise – never dragging on and overstaying their welcome. If anything, “Pitch Black Night” might even be over too quickly at just short of 3 minutes.
“Tombstone” picks up the pace a little with its major-key jangle. Again, masterfully put together with its multiple layers being woven together seamlessly. “The Scythe” is next up- it’s a more obtuse song this time – still unobtrusive in its feel but I laughingly had to start the track over a few times just to be sure what I was hearing was correct; “Blood stained farts and flatulence” or “blood stained thoughts and violence” – either one caught my ear and brought me back down to earth from my eerie trance through the rain beaten windows of the carriage. “New York or Whatever” keeps with the airy indie vibes leading into the middle section of Travelmate.
The next two tracks “Vapour Trails” and “Guilty As Charged” are on the more acoustic lead tip – while both are great songs and fit into the sequencing perfectly – you wouldn’t be out of line thinking there might be a dip in “energy” that the record previously had. These numbers are sparse and again, not out of place, however on your walk home this is a point to maybe take a break and light up a smoke on a bench to give your barking dogs a rest. Don’t fall asleep though – you’ve still a ways to go before you’re out of the woods and home behind lock and key!
“Malmøya” offers a different and unexpected change in horses actually – this time it’s a dusty country-esque via surf rock. A welcome palette cleanser after your quick break on the bench. “Far Apart” picks up the tempo further, and is quite possibly the most upbeat tune on the album altogether.
Travelmate closes again on a reflective note – “Centre Of The Universe” is another dreamy ballad before one last western slow-dance, complete with woozy slide guitars in “Alexander Kielland” and then seamlessly convalesces into closer “Travelmate (Minehead)”, a reprise of the opening number dressed a little differently – bookending the album in a very chronological way. Your Journey is over and you’re safe.
This record is really exactly as I’d hoped from ONBC. Travelmate follows up their debut in this constellation, (2015’s Crash, Burn & Cry) and expands on their indie and dream-pop framework with their best feet forward. The multiple layers of both clean and dirty guitars paired with tasteful synths and percussion provide an astoundingly colourful backdrop. There’s probably a whole host of bands you could compare ONBC to – if you’ve made it this far I’m not even going to start listing, however ONBC come off as nothing but original and passionate in their overall picture – never derivative or anything less than the genuine article. This is good stuff they can be really proud of. They’ve gone and done it again.
Despite the record dragging a little in the middle – the album as a whole is definitely one of the best I’ve heard all year and hits all the right spots for me. It’s been a great year around the world for female-lead indie in this vein as well. This record should be on everyone’s year-end list along with entries from The Courtneys, Alvvays, Chastity Belt and Chromatics. I honestly felt it our duty to write and tell anyone who reads how great this batch of songs is. The rest I guess is up to you and the bands team – I for one would love to see them play for us real soon in Aarhus.
This record is really exactly as we hoped from ONBC. Travelmate follows up their 2015 debut, and expands on their indie and dream-pop framework with their best feet forward. The multiple layers of both clean and dirty guitars paired with tasteful synths and percussion provide an astoundingly colourful backdrop - nothing but original and passionate in their overall picture. (5/6)