Los Angeles-based duo ORNAMENT AND CRIME compel throughout their new album ONES, bridging dreamy synths, catching guitar lines, and magnetic vocal dynamics. Releasing on February 16th, ONES also embraces collaboration, with ORNAMENT AND CRIME’s co-founders — Poolside producer Alex Kemp and Grizfolk drummer Bill Delia — proud of its partnership aspect.

“ORNAMENT AND CRIME is a really fun experiment in terms of how collaborative it is,” Delia says. “We created a universe for the project with the instrumentation, range, and elements. We work within this space together.”

“On & On” casts a melodic spell with its heady synth twinkling and calming guitar tones. A collaboration with Los Angeles-based project Cadeaux, the track opens up ONES with instantaneous appeal. “We’re headed down that road again,” the vocals enchant amidst a late-night dazzling of funky bass and atmospheric synths, reminding fondly of a more soulful Alvvays. “I’ll Never Love You” follows with more gradual enticement, as throbbing synths and a pulsing bass drum expand into a spacey synth effervescence that glides beautifully amidst the vibrant piano tone. The project’s knack for compelling, nocturnal soundscapes and momentum-sating pop hooks is evident from the opening one-two punch.

A ghostly success, “The Only Living Girl in LA” is a masterclass in structural growth — venturing from haunting wordless vocals into grimy synth layering and a luxurious underlying synth pad. Dreamy guitars add a twangy sparseness, into vocals proclaim “can’t stay out too late, because I’m never home.” The “let it go,” ensuing soaring reminds fondly of Beach House, pairing with touching lyrical emphasis on independent spirits. “Don’t need someone to take me home,” they ascend into a consuming chorus, embracing the power of loving oneself and not requiring a dependence on another.

In addition to the opening success, featuring Cadeaux (who also appear on the track “Sparks in the Air”), the album hosts a number of talented guests. Another success is in the form of “Walking Toward The Sun,” featuring Dana Williams. “It’s hard to wake up in the morning,” the gentle vocals lament amidst serene, delicate synths. “I’d rather be dreaming instead,” they continue; the dream-like soundscape and fitting lyrics make for a mesmerizing atmospheric pull, fit for meditation initially and then evolving into a percussive-laden “into the light,” catharsis of self-confidence.

The album’s lead single, “You’re A Mess” features Virginia Balms and enamors in its balmy guitar tones and dazed synth accompaniments. The hypnotic, hooky production is wholly immersive. The same can be said, but in the more electronic/dance realm, with “Sage” — a finale that closes ONES with satiating effect. Snapping percussion and tropical flourishes rise during the “doesn’t mean much,” bridge, culminating in a blissfully melodic fusing of guitars and synths; the “we saved the best for last,” lyric plays aptly. ONES is a showcase in quality songwriting and dreamy production from ORNAMENT AND CRIME.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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