Crocus by The Ophelias

Release date: September 24, 2021
Label: Joyful Noise Recordings

A lot has changed for Ohio four-piece The Ophelias since their last album Almost was conceived. The arrival of new album Crocus not only sees them all now graduates but finds them at a further graphical distance than before. Vocalist/guitarist Spencer Peppet and new bassist and music video collaborator Jo Shaffer live in New York while drummer Mic Adams and violinist Gutmann Fuentes remain in Ohio.

As The Ophelias find themselves in a post college world the aptly titled Crocus – a flower which is often regarded as a harbinger of new beginnings – was recorded at night in a converted Masonic Lodge. While there may be more mileage between them all, there is still a strong sense of community within the band as they flesh out their sound with musician friends – strings, horns, synths – for a sound that is warm, soothing, vulnerable, and a friendly arm round your shoulders.

There is a strong sense of very personal introspective songs about the past, present and the future, or as Peppet puts it more profoundly in the press release, ‘’Crocus represents the state of flux between dreaming and reality or internal reflection and external action.’’ The opening title track’s repeated refrain of ‘I hope’ reflects the album title’s meaning and reflecting on an old love and its future memories ‘I hope you are happier now but you dream of me’ as the finger picking guitar and swooning violin brings blue tinged vibes, as the song fades out with the spoken words of a flight attendant announcing ‘secure your own mask before helping others.’

The brisk and immediately catchy ‘Sacrificial Lamb’ has a full band sound and the feeling of being in the throes of a looming emotional change brought to the surface on a night out that doesn’t quiet live up to its potential, ‘Im leaving the party, I’m not having fun anymore.’ Peppet’s whispery toned sang vocals blend perfectly with Fuentes swooning violin that bring-to mind Suzanne Vega. There are other moments reminiscent of Vega across the album as well as influences which range from 60’s folk to the Mountain Goats.

One of those other Vega moments is ‘Neil Young on High’ featuring Julien Baker on backing vocals as they blend perfectly with Fuentes swooning violin. Fuentes violin applications are deftly applied throughout Crocus, as they seep and blend warmly into the band’s sound, varying the playing between the quiet in the background to earworm melodies takeover, as on Peppet’s first song written on banjo, ‘Vapour.’

There are many delicicies to the songs that slowly grow on you. From the warm melodies and first love reflection of ‘Spirit Sent’ to Mic Adams complex rhythms and busy cymbol play on ‘Becoming a nun’, a combination with strumming guitar which makes for an absorbing and noisier foray into Indie Rock. While Fuentes folkie fiddle and Adams raw and thicker beats are delightful on ‘Spitting Image’, as Peppet sings ‘I was happy with you in my head.’ Not every song succeeds though, ‘Mastermind’ and ‘Under again’ are too withdrawn within themselves to barely register.

Crocus is not an album that lunges out at you forcefully. It requires time to be lured into its slowly seductive sound and intelligent, thoughtful, identity forming emotions. It’s an album to mull over with a cup of tea on a Sunday morning for full immersion, and let the words and music hover over you to reveal themselves. This would have been an album that would have escaped my attention, so to review it and to have it on my digital system, is something I’m pleased about.

Pin It on Pinterest