Album Review: Cullen Omori – ‘New Misery’

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On the heels of the breakup of his former band, Smith Westerns, Cullen Omori grapples with the effects of success (and the lack thereof) on New Misery (out 3/18 via Sub Pop Records), a collection of songs bearing the artist’s stamp in an unprecedented way.

The album begins with the introspective “No Big Deal,” where Omori not only showcases the electronic sounds that differentiate this album from his previous work, but also the personal nature of the lyrics to come. The artist paints himself as a “creature of a habit” in an industry where financial success is hard to come by. His creative instincts are clearly the driving force behind his decision to go it alone, and in step with the old Ray Charles adage, Omori continues to pursue music because he “couldn’t not play music.”

The next few songs bounce between laid-back synth-rock (“Two Kinds”) and compositions that could easily bolster a summer playlist (“Hey Girl” and, lead single, “Cinnamon”). “And Yet the World Turns” and “Sour Silk” (utilizing haunting backing vocals to embody its title) further remind the listener of the artist’s pop versatility. New Misery, which could easily have fallen prey to a gross amount of filler, effectively ebbs-and-flows between the upbeat and the ballad-esque. The beauty of a well-composed pop album is not found in its ability to craft one or two chart-toppers, but in its ability to handle a wealth of tempos and styles effectively, which Omori does commendably.

New Misery reaches its climax as it comes to a close. “LOM,” the album’s penultimate track, incorporates a syncopated chorus that is a breath of a fresh air. It also serves as an apt lead-in to the album’s highlight (and eponymous track) “New Misery.”

“Is it enough to be happy
Or to be loved so tenderly?
I could call it new misery.”

Even though Cullen Omori is, in a sense, starting over with this newest project, he is no stranger to the attainment of success at a young age. This struggle pervades “New Misery,” a song that sheds light on the real effects of achievement: a cancerous thirst for more. For Omori, “New Misery” is a humbling reminder that reaching new heights in music, relationships, etc. will not ultimately bring contentedness. Instead, it seems that he is banking on creative integrity, not a short-term claim to fame, to guide the direction of his life’s next steps. /-II

Listen to New Misery on Spotify then head to your local record store:

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About Author

IT professional by day, surveyor of all things indie-rock by night. I am a recent University of Minnesota grad with the distinct pleasure of calling the Minneapolis "Uptown" area home. Prior to this digital age, I was the friend you visited to borrow CDs by the tenfold. From my humble beginnings as a fusion jazz aficionado (thanks, Dad), I've come to enjoy music in a variety of genres and contexts. Whether it's catching a $10 steal-of-a-show over at First Avenue's 7th Street Entry, spending my Friday mornings sifting through the day's new releases (yes, I am one of the few still lamenting the death of New Music Tuesday), or strapping on a guitar for a worship set at Hope Community Church, music touches nearly all aspects of my life. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share with you (in the form of reviews, recommendations, and the not-so-irregular begging plea) my intense passion for one of humanity's greatest accomplishments in collaboration... MUSICAL PERFORMANCE. Follow me on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/1251204357

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