It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since OHCHILL‘s self-titled album. Back in 2014, the duo went by the name 57 but now reference themselves as “OHCHILL” which is a romanization of five and seven in Korean.
When the duo first appeared, they were part of a group of duo bands. Like National Pigeon Unity and Dead Buttons (previously, now a full band), OHCHILL integrates their entire sound through vocals, guitar, and drums. This limitation creates even more creativity.
OHCHILL released two singles between 2016 and 2017, with “Pray For The Dead” and Making Fire, and seemingly appeared to be actively working on a new album. Now two years later, OHCHILLl returned with Oh, Two Animals.
Let’s get this out front first. Oh, Two Animals is incredible. Since their first release, playing, likely, hundreds of shows, and experiencing whatever they went through, OHCHILL has grown up as a band. While still focused on their alternative and garage rock style, this album feels like a more confident and mature band. The recording still contains the grittiness and power that’s always been present, but everything seems tighter.
“Love Me More” as the first song captures all the elements that create OHCHILL. Jun‘s vocals sound more directed power with his guitar abilities relying on less, but creating even more sonic power. Snow has always been one of my favorite drummers, and she only continues that with her precise and powerful drumming.
“Oh, Two Animals” is pure OHCHILL at their finest. Since the band only really relies on three tracks, vocals, guitar, and drums, each verse is filled precisely. “Oh, Two Animals” doesn’t need to fill every verse with guitar distortion or a drum fill, it actually does a lot with more minimal elements. I feel like “Love Me More” is a message to the past and “Oh, Two Animals” is a message for the band’s future and direction.
The nine songs on the album don’t always feel the need to push an aggressive position. “Do Not Run” starts off a little more mellow with Jun’s vocals and guitar creating the atmosphere before Snow jumps into an instrumental breakdown before the chorus. Listening to OHCHILL for a long time, the band does have a specific composition style but keeps each song fresh.
A change is on “Road Kill” featuring HAWAGON. Still using electric guitar, the song is more ambient and low key. The song is more instrumental with the addition of strings (which I think is a cello). Drums come in a little halfway through the song. “Road Kill” might be an instrumental break from the beginning of Oh, Two Animals.
Right after “Road Kill,” OHCHILL gets back into it with “Should Be Better.” It reminds me of early Dead Buttons with a repeating guitar line, but doesn’t move into British-influenced rock territory. A major point for OHCHILL is that songs are sung in English. If you just heard OHCHILL, it would be easy to think that the duo is some unknown up-and-coming band.
I do like how OHCHILL space out their songs. The album definitely isn’t front or back loaded with the right song order. “The Message” makes me think of their first release, with a slower tempo. “Night” really shows growth because the band knows it doesn’t need to push loud volumes and fast tempos to get a message across.
One unexpected addition of “You and I.” This was their first big single off 57, then titled “U&I.” I like how OHCHILL placed it right at the end of the album and it’s still one of my favorite songs. As a re-recording, all the familiar arrangements are there, but this version just has more flavor than the original. “U&I” had a lot of power and energy, but felt a little off-the-rails, which was who OHCHILL was at that time.
Closing out Oh, Two Animals is “On and On.” I missed it the first time I listened to the album, but when it came on the second time, I started listening more closely. It’s a combination of everything that makes up OHCHILL now. The low and slow buildup where I thought it was just an instrumental outro to when the vocals started. “On and On” is a very introspective song.
The lyrics are overall simple statements, but the way Jun sings each line, it feels like he’s speaking about the band. Snow’s drumming parallels the beginning by following the tempo. And as the song gets to the halfway point, the power and energy starts rising. “On and On” will be a concert closer and a crowd-supported track.
Honestly, “On and On” is just really fucking beautiful.
OHCHILL’s return with a new album is welcome. The pair have an incredible musical compatibility. They feed off each other. Having seen them live one, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in terms of just energy and enjoying performing. Oh, Two Animals might be coming in the last quarter of 2019, but it’s definitely one of the best albums of this year.