Ever since ODESZA’s music came into my life, I have been a huge fan of their work. Their music has not only changed my life in the most literal sense, but has also impacted my friends and peers in ways I could have never fathomed. I have nothing but love and respect for all of the work they have put into their projects and out into the world. Despite everything, I do feel different about their newest album A Moment Apart as I do about them performing live.
With that being said, it is with a heavy heart that I must say that I am not as emotionally attached to A Moment Apart as I am to their previous works. That is not to say that I do not like the new album. The quality of the project is incredible, bar none. However the level of emotional appeal simply does not stand up to par. Summers Gone and In Return are not only quality projects, but also elicit pure and raw emotion from the listener. It may be due to the fact that I have lived with them for the better part of three years, and the new album has only been out for a little over a month. However, in my previous experience, if I fall in love with an ODESZA track it happens as soon as I hear it.
After listening to the new album many times over, I came to realize why the new album does not resonate with me as much as their previous material. The duo are undeniably pioneers when it comes to using vocal chops in this medium of music, and there are very few comparable artists. They have also become incredibly talented producers over their five year career, and their craftsmanship is undeniable. One of the biggest reasons I am in love with ODESZA is their non-vocal tracks. They are able to elicit all kinds of emotions from the listener without having lyrics attached. This is partially due to the fact that in the absence of lyrics, the listener is able to project whatever thoughts and feelings they want onto the track. On the other hand, a track with lyrics often confines the listener to the message or words the singer attempts to project onto the track. This is where ODESZA has fallen short in the past (in my personal opinion), songs like Say My Name, and All We Need. They contain pop-esque elements, that are accentuated by the vocals. In a similar breadth, Just a Memory and Line of Sight cater to the larger audience rather than the core fans.
Unfortunately this isn’t the only place where ODESZA hasn’t lived up to my expectations. One of the reasons In Return was so phenomenal was the versatility they incorporated in certain tracks. Most notably in the song, Memories that You Call, the song takes multiple tonal shifts that keep the listener on their toes. This, in my opinion, was the most exciting aspect of their progression from Summer’s Gone to In Return. When Clayton and Harrison (the two members of ODESZA) discussed the new album they mentioned that they had refined their craft in terms of what they wanted to do on A Moment Apart. I had high hopes that their newest album would continue to build on the progress they had made. Sadly, A Moment Apart feels very predictable since the songs are structured classically. The song builds up “drops” and repeats the cycle. Although the new album is extremely versatile from one song to the next, it fails to have a sense of cohesiveness that In Return carries. The element that they attempted to refine was the vocals in the track, and incorporating them into the song in a better way. I believe this approach led them to structuring songs around the vocals, rather than structuring the vocals around their song. This led to some disjointed tracks being placed next to each other on the album. It also left me feeling like the influence ODESZA had on their own sound was mitigated by the vocals.
Regardless of all of my criticism, A Moment Apart is a solid album. With masterful production quality, incredible instrumentals, and ethereal vocals, it is no wonder why the album has been so well received by the masses. ODESZA will always be near and dear to my heart, even if they take a different direction in their music than I would have hoped. Their impact on my life is forever cemented and I will ride and die with their music.
The Live Show
ODESZA has made leaps and bounds with respect to their live show since they started. When I first saw them back in 2015, it was just them with their synth drums on stage, an incredible and eye opening experience in its own right due to its intimacy and music that went above and beyond my expectations.
The second time I saw them was at San Jose State University in 2016 during their In Return tour (Go Spartans!). At this point in their career, they had already played with a drum line at Coachella, all of the non-festival shows included Scott Flynn on the trombone, Brennan Carter on the trumpet, and of course Sean Kusanagi on the guitar. Now beyond the fact that their live show included incredible music, including several edits and VIP’s for songs like Sun Models and their remix of Break the Rules; their visuals had become next level! Luke Tanaka, their Creative Director & Visual Artist, had encapsulated all of the emotional appeal of ODESZA into an incredible light show that spanned the entire show.
I saw them again at SnowGlobe 2016-2017, this was my first time getting to see them at a festival where they got to headline. This show was just after their 3 month hiatus after touring for the better part of 3 years. ODESZA played their set list with 3 new songs; a new intro, an edit of LLC which later became one of the strongest songs on the album Late Night, and an unreleased track that was only ever played live twice (After talking to Sean Kusanagi over the weekend I found out that it was an unreleased VIP of the song Koto). Hearing the drum line through the deluxe version of the album In Return is one thing, but actually getting to experience it is entirely different. The drum line adds so much depth to a track like Bloom, it is almost as if it is an entirely new song.
In May, I flew out to Colorado to see them play at their favorite venue, Red Rocks. As a huge ODESZA fan this show was super important to me, and I had high expectations. I could barely sleep the night before the show, and was giddy with excitement the day of. After meeting a bunch of new people, in the parking lot, I made my way into Red Rocks. When ODESZA came on, it was another crazy experience. They played an entirely new set with brand new visuals. Unreleased tracks such as Boy, Meridian, and La Ciudad, were all played for the first time. The ODESZA drum line had improved their performance with precision and flare incorporated into their choreography. The visuals had yet again been improved upon. Keep Her Close, a classic from their EP My Friends Never Die had haunting visuals, with hands pressed up against what seemed to be a sheet, and silhouettes in the background. My favorite part of Red Rocks, however, was a new VIP remix of their song Memories That You Call. The deep house edit included visuals often accompanied by 80’s synth wave with bright neon colors. Rather than ending with their signature finale, Loyal, they mashed up the Intro from Summer’s Gone with How Did I Get Here, which hit everyone right in the feels. Needless to say, it was well worth the trip out to Colorado.
After announcing their, A Moment Apart tour, I had the honor of seeing them and photographing them on their home turf of Seattle at the festival Bumbershoot. Beyond the fact that photographing them was a personal dream of mine (literally checked it off my bucket list), their performance was quite similar to the show at Red Rocks, with the exception of Higher Ground where Naomi Wild came out, and Across the Room with Leon Bridges. However, just as the show was ending, they hit me with another unexpected surprise, the It’s Only VIP. Out of the 6 times I saw ODESZA, I have teared up 3 times. This was no exception, the moment, the music, and the setting were all so beautiful. Bumbershoot was everything I could have asked for and more!
A Moment Apart Tour
Most recently, I had the pleasure of seeing them three days in a row at The Greek, in Berkeley; and one last show on Halloween in Sacramento. (before I continue please note that the following paragraph includes “spoilers” for their new tour) The excitement in the air was electrifying. After waiting for what felt like an eternity the audio for the Intro of A Moment Apart filled the airwaves. With brand new space themed visuals, they have easily outdone themselves in terms of their visual production. Luke Tanaka, their visual director, has really stepped up his game. Visuals for songs like Show Me, and Say My Name are stunning. At one point during their remix of Soala by Beat Connection they have a charming visual of a dog (I am convinced it is my spirit animal). However their most phenomenal visual is used twice during their performance. Towards the end when Sean Kusanagi comes out with a guitar and a bow string, he begins to play along with the mashup between the Summer’s Gone Intro and How Did I Get Here. The visual includes a grainy grey live sketch of Kusanagi as he captivates the audience with the chords while slowing things down. They use the visual one last time as they end their set with the VIP of It’s Only. Halfway through the same grey grainy sketch effect comes on and weaves between all the drummers. It was a spectacular way to end the show; so much so that I came back to watch it four times over!
ODESZA has only been around for five years, but they are already making massive waves in the electronic music scene. I would not be surprised if they became GOATs or legends over the course of their career; up there with names like Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, and Moby. Every time I think I have seen ODESZA’s peak, they only seem to astound me more. I am excited to see what is next for the duo!