By Jemiah Jefferson
Those expecting a return to the bleepy electro-funk of the early releases of Thomas Dolby will likely be disappointed with the Oceanea EP; its sound tends more to the supperclub-jazz singer-songcraft reminiscent of Dolby’s early track, “I Scare Myself.” Those willing to listen more closely, however, will be rewarded by Spanish rhythms, nuanced piano, and storytelling lyrics that make each song like a snapshot from a complex relationship.
“Simone” mentions iPods, Lake Erie, and magnesium flares in a slinky tale about a doomed relationship where at least one of the participants is not quite what she seems. “To the Lifeboats” is sung to a Caroline, but it’s no love song; it combines organs, darting guitars, and a digitally-processed vocal to gently but furiously admonish a world without an escape route. The EP’s title track, sung with Scottish vocalist Eddi Reader, is as mellow as it gets, a grateful, graceful elegy of finding home after a lifetime of tragedy; it’s beautiful, but it lacks the teeth of the other tracks.
Ideally, the four-year-wait for a new Thomas Dolby LP will be worth it, but if Oceanea is any indication, the one thing the next album won’t be is musically exciting or revolutionary. However, it will be lovely.
Oceanea was released on March 29 and is available from Thomas Dolby’s website.