Over the last four years, London musician Oscar Lang has proven he’s a dab hand at dreamy pop-rock and snarling anthems alike. Initially catching people’s ears with the subtly affecting ‘She Likes Another Boy’, he’s steadily grown into an artist who delves into new sounds with every release – his third EP in 12 months, December’s ‘Antidote to Being Bored’, saw him enlist scuzzier sounds and post-punk influences – with searing results.
Widening the scope further, the artist’s debut album ‘Chew The Scenery’ returns to themes of boredom and disenchantment, but mainly charts heartbreak with increasingly huge-sounding anthems. By the time final track ‘Thank You’ rolls around, Lang is pulled by both hope and regret: “I should of known better than giving you up,” he admits, thanking a break-up for making him a stronger person. It’s a bittersweet but brilliant closer.
Yet Lang struggles when he shoots for huge, belting rock’n’roll – most of the more conventional tracks fade into the background. Though the message of ‘21st Century Hobby’ feels hugely poignant in an era when musicians struggle tirelessly just to break even, musically it feels more Hot Hot Heat than the cutting edge of indie-rock. There’s little to inherently dislike about the rollicking ‘I Could Swear’, but there are also no surprises lurking within its jaunty, slightly schmaltzy exterior: “All I do, reminds me of you.”
Instead, Lang feels far more at home and intriguing with the intricate, slowly unfurling ‘Final Call’. Twinkling with piano and tender falsetto before making way for soaring strings, it recalls ‘Rush of Blood to the Head’-era Coldplay and is one of Lang’s most beautiful songs to date. And where bombastic ambition meets experimentation, ‘Chew The Scenery’ also shines. Though ‘Yeah!’ bears many hallmarks of a stadium-baiting anthem, it’s also delightfully shot through the soundcard of a Nintendo 64. The self-reflective ‘Take Time Out’ dips its quill into a denser palette, too, with similarly winning results – it’s a collision between Lang’s clear love of propulsive British indie-rock and woozier, lighter-handed psych.
These stand-out moments continue to show exactly what the Dirty Hit-signed musician, who emerged with fuzzy, bedroom pop tracks such as ‘The Moon Song’, is capable of. Spluttering into action, the album’s opener ‘Our Feature Presentation’ melds rowdy rock influences with a gargling, experimental edge – it’s just a shame it peters out so soon. In some ways, it’s the story of this album. Often, you’re left wishing he’d pushed it further.
Release date: August 13
Release label: Dirty Hit