Formed in Montreal, Canada, Ought made names for themselves with their 2011 debut EP New Calm, garnering acclaim from their ability to marry the strengths of art rock and post-punk into an apprehensive yet charismatic collection of tracks. This sound would further develop on their debut album, More than Any Other Day, and reach its peak on their sophomore effort, 2015’s Sun Coming Down. Yet Room Inside the World sees Ought’s uncertainty pushed a little to the wayside, letting more adventurous song structures and production techniques take center stage. The result is a solid and engaging album all the way through, initially sounding like a mix of Interpol, the Strokes, and maybe a hint of Grizzly Bear. Yet with more listens, the songs do reveal Ought at their core.
Right from the opening track “Into the Sea,” it’s made clear that atmosphere was a prime objective when producing the album. Previous Ought records mainly consisted of only guitar, drums, keyboard, and the occasional string section. These elements are all still present on Room Inside the World, but accompanied by instrumentation new to Ought’s sound. Tim Darcy’s usual pedal-less guitar playing is split into multiple parts, spanning over a handful of different pedals and sounds, equally distributing the weight of the newfound depth and variety they create on the album.
Something the band has always done exceptionally well is cut songs at the perfect length. This tradition is kept alive, as each track on Room Inside the World ends exactly when it feels time. Never does a song overstay its welcome or leave the party too soon, nor does the album as a whole, which wraps up in a tight, solid nine tracks at forty minutes in length. The actual recording and engineering of the album are far superior to anything the band has released as well. This, along with the newer instrumentation and more diverse guitar work all add up to the strong atmospheric feel on the record.
A sense of calm paranoia can still be felt on a great share of the lyrics, though much like the music itself, Tim Darcy’s words feel more confident and self-assured than before. It’s a bittersweet evolution that sees room for a whole new world of lyrical subject matters on future releases, but also signifies the end of the youthful insecurities that charmed us on their first two albums. There is a section in the album’s second track, “Disgraced in America” in which Darcy sings: “Birds fly around while the dividends pay / birds fly around while I’m picking up change / crapping out tokens and living in a haze / build lights in the dungeons and plumbing in the graves.” Lines like this show Darcy’s rising writing abilities, choosing to write of action through thoughts, and thoughts through action.
Overall, Room Inside the World marks a new chapter in Ought’s career. Gone are the days of a band recording in their parents’ garage, using hand-me-down instruments and playing for friends in 200 max capacity venues. Now is the new start of a band as they write, record and tour as professional musicians, continuing to make some of the freshest and most distinct music in today’s indie scene.