The Acts of God in Ought’s Room Inside the World

"I am exiting someone's mind by shrinking into a malleable clay version of myself and being pulled out through their ear by a magnet or UFO."

My favorite music reminds me that freedom exists in some capacity, whether just in our minds or as a general existential reality (this really brings up the argument of whether free will exists, which is a whole other dragon that we should save probably for another music review or something.) I love music that shows me—heck, teaches me—that expansiveness exists. Room Inside The World, the new record by Ought, contains both the feeling of standing on a mountain and being able to see everything very clearly and a symbol of sorts that there are points emotionally in your life where you may struggle to do that, but ultimately can dig yourself out of a feeling enough to see it from far away eventually. Music that subverts expectation, lyrics that carry true sincerity: these things are capable of bringing people out of wherever their mind may be, by example. Music that reminds us of our inner and outer world. That our inner world inevitably creates the climate of our outer experiences.

Room Inside The World touches on all these themes for me. Even the song titles imply the relationship between oneself and our feelings (and our feelings about those feelings, usually affected by our environment and view of what’s expected of us by our culture.) “Brief Shield,” “Pieces Wasted,” “Take Everything,” and, namely, “Disaffectation”—these titles evoke the reality that we ourselves, as emotional creatures, are meandering and constantly navigating disassociation and deep closeness to ourselves. The clean, concise production and the mathematical, minimalist musical motifs augment this feeling, especially considering that these moments of musical clarity often floodgate into some sort of noise-like chaos.

The record opens with a sparse, thoughtful manifesto. Clear vocals; soft pianos; the lyrics sway: “Deep, dark blue fades to gray, and nothing turning seems to stay.” Parallel to this mantra, drums and a heavy bass line enter the space the song has created. This one is a “foot-tapper”—it carries a deep momentum as the drums play off a rhythmic guitar atypical of most “rock” music. The drums spin an uneasy thread, swirling with the guitars. I imagine that I am watching people in coats and hats run around a city but am in a state of both great excitement and great awe? Enamored and confused. Fresh to something.

“Disgraced in America,” naturally, bends from a straight poppy entrance into chaotic climactic noise, similar to the feeling of being disgraced in America. “Birds fly around while I’m picking up change.” The personal and nonchalant nature of Ought’s lyrics make one feel as though they truly are in their Room Inside the World. The way the singer pronounces “dividends” and “picking up” really hooks onto the ear in an impressive way. This song actually says “downtown” in it, which I cling to and am actively excited and validated by.

“Disaffectation”—first off, love that this is a title of a song. This song is very sick. The time-evaporating breakdowns in this song are wonderful. Weird synths and sounds come in, and time is forgotten, and the singer sings wonderfully over the discordant, spacelessness, and then we are back with the leading bass, and it is heavenly. This voice is very good; it feels good on the hearing cavity. I feel like this band is very cool, and people who I wonder if they are cool, or if they think they are cool, I think they like the music it is very cool.

“Desire” begins ambiently, then the bass and drums break into a Lynchian daydream vibe. Julee Cruise absurdist ’50s energy, you know what I mean? Sexy guitar solo currently happening. Hot reverb and chorus affectations. Sly, wordless vocal remarks over sexy guitar solo. The voice has a natural vibrato that I find very beautiful. Wow, we have arrived at my favorite song so far, which by far has the most helpless, apathetic feel. Reminds me of an oversized T-shirt and crying at three p.m. Maybe I’m projecting, though. The song is more focused around these whirling high guitars and brushy drums. This song’s probably good to feel like a hopeless romantic to. Maybe I should give every song yearbook superlatives; that could really change music journalism…or maybe that is a very contemporary approach to clickbait-criticism. (What am i talking about? Does anyone know? My head hurts I am drinking cold brew it tastes kind of like dirt)

Spilled coffee on myself when the song “Take Everything” began; felt like an act of God. This record is very cohesive, but each song has a very different feel. It is very pleasant to listen through straight. I am a pretty distracted DJ, and I am truly vibing from the musical astral plane throughout this record. This song I would like to “rock out” to at the gig, you know? Ripping guitars, etc, other acts of God, next song.

Room Inside the World ends on a more ambient and guarded note. I feel as if I am exiting someone’s mind by shrinking into a very small and malleable clay version of myself and being pulled out through their ear by a magnet or UFO. This record is special to me. It has an expansiveness in the sound, but the personal lyrical ideas at full center make me feel as if I am driving a car with this person and they are telling me about their life and we are in Iowa and it might start raining but we’re not sure and we’ve never really talked before and how the hell did we end up alone in a car together driving through Iowa? It feels like a chance meeting, but also like a sleepover with everyone who has been born ever. I don’t really know what I am talking about, for a rational person, I speak pretty emotionally most of the time. Anyway, I love the Ought record, it reminds me of my smallness and bigness and how my bigness and smallness are usually a side effect of my perspective on the world and that’s all I really want from anything so thank you Ought go buy their music it is wonderful.

Harmony Tividad is a song writer from Los Angeles, CA. She plays in the band Girlpool and finds her spare time spent deconstructing God through the lens of a person who loves stuffed animals and crystals, but from a “practical” standpoint. When not writing in third person, she finds herself usually talking in first person about the myth and the lie. Much of her life has been spent deifying her acquaintances.