By Mike Marlow
Ours is the sophomore release of Johnstown, PA artist Blue Navy, aka Jake Dryzal. Some of you may recall I wrote about Blue Navy’s first full-length release, Mine, almost one year ago. Not only do these album titles bear a connection, but artistically Ours feels like a continuation of the thematic and stylistic idioms established by its predecessor.
Blue Navy’s musical style remains familiar. The self-described “dream pop/slowcore” of Ours uses layers of indie-folk inspired guitars modulated with post-rock staple reverb (along with the occasional keys, drums and bass) to build spacious soundscapes. These are complimented by Dryzal’s simple, vulnerable vocal delivery, angst-ridden lyricism and New Romantic pining.
Similar to Mine, Ours is constructed with a cohesive flow as a full album rather than a collection of songs. The album begins with two tracks, particularly the ethereal first track “Grace,” that slowly allow the album’s atmosphere to envelop the listener. Chiming guitars melt into reverberated walls of sound. It’s not until the third track that a strumming groove appears to keep pace over the sweeping wave patterns at the heart of Dryzal’s songwriting. (I use the word “groove” loosely as the effect of Blue Navy’s style is still rooted in the ambient ebb and flow of emotion)
The expansive “Goodnight Sweet February” acts as a sort of centerpiece to the album making use of all of the tools available. A simple drum beat along with a driving strum and layers of echoing textures build the track’s towering climax. The climax then takes a backseat to an intimate spoken-word section.
The instrumental “Fading” excels at building a technically simple but emotionally cathartic piece. The final track builds to the album’s soaring conclusion then quickly dissipates as effortlessly as it has all come together.
Throughout the album, lyrics are intimate, moody, and deal with love and love lost. At times, the reverb-heavy nature of this album seems to bury some of the songwriting and makes lyrics difficult to make out. However, this is a welcome compromise given the album’s overall ambient nature.
While I described Mine like floating on one’s back in the middle of a dark ocean, Ours is more aerial. Rather than focusing on the buoyancy of one’s own body, Ours turns its focus outward and upwards to the night’s sky. Its textures soar above and around the melody. As a whole, Ours is a welcome follow-up to last year’s Mine. It will be interesting to see where Blue Navy can go with the style that Mine and Ours have developed.