Ultrasounds in 'Ultralife'

Oh Wonder’s new single introduces its new era of sound

aeohwondercourtesywikimediacommons

Oh Wonder finally has the chops to enter a different realm.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Oh Wonder’s sound in its self-titled debut record was simple, clean and safe. Lately, though, the duo has stepped up its game. Its latest single, “Ultralife,” is a peek into the Oh Wonder’s new era of exciting sounds and musical ideas. Oh Wonder’s singers and creators Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West have been releasing music since 2014 and have gained considerable attention through their catchy songs and fresh sounds. Three years later, the London-based duo finally has the chops to enter a different realm.

“Ultralife” is packed with beautiful synths, drum and piano loops as well as monophonic vocals that leap off the track. Oh Wonder’s debut album contained simplistic tracks with minimal loops and sparse drum beats — save for bigger hits like “Midnight Moon” and “Drive.”

However, “Ultralife” is full of layered beats and textures Oh Wonder has previously explored, but only in subtle ways. At the base of the song is a loop of drums drawn from classic Bollywood soundtracks, which provides a new and refreshing sound. As the song heats up, the drums become layered with a stronger beat that makes the song more dynamic. A piano loop keeps the song moving, and glimmering synths weave in and out of the verses to offer greater intrigue.

West and Vander Gucht come out of their comfort zones by splitting up the vocals. While all of their previous songs have been sung as two simultaneous layers of melody split by an octave, “Ultralife” lets both singers break out into solos. West uses his somber, lower range to provide more stability in the song as Vander Gucht utilizes her passionate, higher range to create space and give the song a powerful edge. They sing about living an ultra, exceptional life while touching on the excitement of a budding relationship with someone who makes life feel invigorating and euphoric. The essence of “Ultrasound” arises with the repeated line, “I got so much soul inside my bones / Take a look at me now / I’m young forever in the sun / Ever since you came I’m living ultralife.” The line serves a simple ode to the exhilaration of life and love.

“Ultrasound” is the first single Oh Wonder has released since its debut album, and it introduces listeners to a side of the duo never seen before. From the sound of it, Oh Wonder is ready to take the next step into something bigger, brighter and more complex. “Ultralife” is the perfect starting point. 

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