The Shout Out Louds are a conundrum. Their latest release, Optica, makes all the right moves, but truly memorable music still eludes the band.
The sterile sound that plagued their previous release, Work, has been addressed. Optica is still polished, but much more easy going. Softer tones and a lazy haze give most of the album a glean of modern nostalgia. Songs like “Walking In Your Footsteps” definitely sound like they could’ve have appeared on a soundtrack for a long lost John Hughes film.
It sounds like the members of Shouts Out Louds are actually enjoying themselves. This record is less work and more play. Their playfulness can be heard in the off-kilter percussion of “Circles,” the dance-worthy beats of “14th of July,” and the jazz flute that’s all over the album. These small experiments make Optica a more enjoyable listen than Work.
It’s nice hear Shout Out Louds, a band that often defaults to bombastic, reign in on songs like “Blue Ice” and “Destroy.” By not pushing every melody to the max, the band creates a better ebb and flow to keep the listener engaged.
Despite all of these improvements, Optica isn’t destined for listeners’ memories. It’s hard to understand why a band that does so many things well still misses the mark. Maybe it’s the uninteresting lyrics or maybe there are one too many melodies that sound too similar to previous songs.
It's unfortunate because Optica is far and away a better album than Work, but Shout Out Louds are still searching for a song that will make listeners love them instead of just like them.
Optica is out now on Merge Records.