NYCS First Impression: Lady Antebellum ‘Ocean’
When Lady Antebellum released “What If I Never Get Over You” as the first single off their then-untitled new album, it was clear that something had shifted within the group’s sound and dynamic. Gone were the horns and funky beats of recent releases. In the place of gimmicks and trend-chasing were the pure harmonies and deep lyrics that the group had initially become known for. While the trio may have lost their way a bit over the years, Ocean (released today, November 15), shows them righting their course.
Ocean marks the trio’s first release on Big Machine Label Group and represents a seismic sonic shift to the sound that made Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood one of Nashville’s hottest acts. “There’s this theme of returning to the core of who we are — as writers, vocalists, and people — that came out in each of these songs,” Haywood said in a statement. “Our time in the studio with Dann (Huff) had an excitement that felt like we were making our first album all over again.”
While the overall sound of Ocean hearkens back to the heyday of Lady A., there’s also growth and maturity to the lyrics here. No longer are they three single kids, trying to make a name in Nashville. Today, they’re each married with kids of their own. They’ve struggled with real life issues, released solo projects, and have grown as people, all of which is evidenced on this album. Notably, “Crazy Love” tells the tale of a relationship that shouldn’t have survived, but has, thanks to crazy love. “You were reckless on that day you took my hand/ But you, you could see right through the boy and see a man/ And here I stand/ Thank God for you/ Thank God for us/ Thank God for crazy love.”
Likewise, “What I’m Leaving For” tells the tale of parents struggling with the travel required of their jobs. “Got my bags packed/ Got my ticket/ Got a heartache to go with it,” Scott sings here, while they hope their children understand the reasons why they’re always leaving. Lady A promises big things for their children on this bittersweet track, as they embrace their duality as performers and parents. “I wore out the demo for this song,” recalled Haywood in a recent press release. “I immediately related to it. It’s so hard stepping away from your family the way we do, and that song is such a great, beautiful way of articulating what we’re out here doing this for – our families, and those that we love us, too. This song is a beautiful picture of that push and pull of our journey.”
Lady A picks things up on the previously-released “Boots” and “You Can Do You,” the latter of which celebrates the ways people blow off steam in Nashville. On the stomping up-tempo, Kelley takes lead, proclaiming “It don’t matter where you come from/ Which side of the county line/ We’re all here/ Searching for a good time.”
Love and relationships are still a prominent theme on the album, taking different forms on the bittersweet “Pictures,” the inspiring “Let It Be Love,” and the lush “Be Patient with My Love.” There’s also a new take on “On A Night Like This,” originally recorded by singer-songwriter, Dave Barnes. Here, Lady Antebellum’s harmonies and plush arrangement wrap around you like a warm blanket, convincing you that on a night like this, you could most certainly fall in love.
One of the album’s most arresting tracks is “The Thing That Wrecks You,” featuring Little Big Town, and written by Daniel Tashian, Tenille Townes, and Kate York. If you want harmonies, they’re in abundance here, as LBT and Lady A create something ethereal and magical. If you’re wondering what heaven might sound like, we expect that it’s something like the chorus of “The Thing That Wrecks You,” as the new power group join vocal forces. This is basically the musical equivalent of the Avengers, and we’re here for as many sequels as they’d like to make.
The album concludes with its title track, “Ocean,” a lush and theatrical ballad that shows the group at its finest. Scott takes lead, Haywood plays piano and Kelley offers stirring background vocals. “It’s such a cinematic and theatrical melody with a message that became the cornerstone of this record for us,” Scott said in a press release. “Ocean is all of the things that we think and feel when we hear the word. This album is immersed in life stories about barely keeping your head above water all the way to those times that make you feel like everything is smooth sailing.”
For Lady Antebellum, Ocean reflects a much-needed return to its roots. The group’s reinvigoration is evident here, and much like the ocean itself, the album’s tracks come at you in waves. Some will hit you hard, some will just be fun, and some will absolutely sweep you away.
NYCountry Swag Picks:
1. The Thing That Wrecks You
2. You Can Do You
3. What I’m Leaving For
Lady Antebellum, Ocean Track List:
1. “What If I Never Get Over You” (Sam Ellis, Jon Green, Ryan Hurd, Laura Veltz)
2. “Pictures” (Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, Sarah Buxton, Corey Crowder)
3. “Crazy Love” (Charles Kelley, Nathan Chapman)
4. “You Can Do You” (Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Corey Crowder, Jordan Schmidt)
5. “What I’m Leaving For” (Sam Ellis, Micah Premnath, Laura Veltz)
6. “Be Patient With My Love” (Charles Kelley, Dave Barnes, Ben West)
7. “Alright” (Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, Busbee, Justin Ebach)
8. “Let It Be Love” (Hillary Scott, Jordan Reynolds, Amy Wadge)
9. “On a Night Like This” (Dave Barnes)
10. “Boots” (Charles Kelley, Ross Copperman)
11. “The Thing That Wrecks You” feat. Little Big Town (Daniel Tashian, Tenille Townes, Kate York)
12. “Mansion” (Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey, Josh Miller)
13. “Ocean” (Tofer Brown, Sarah Buxton, Abe Stoklasa)
To keep up with Lady Antebellum, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Ocean is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
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