Coming off a Smith Westerns breakup, Cullen Omori has finally recuperated and has debuted his solo career. New Misery, in Omori’s own perspective, is a derivative of his former band’s track, “Varsity” that came off of their final album, Soft Will. He wanted to take a step back in his song writing processes, further away from a “prog rock” mentality, and into something of more casual chord progressions. Although the record does have a few psychedelic aspects – the opening track “No Big Deal” has similarities to acts like Tame Impala – it does take on a more minimalistic quality than the work he was formerly putting out. With lots of reverb and simple acoustic guitar strums, “Hey Girl” provides a contemporary outfit with easy going melodies and a chorus that isn’t anywhere the risk of going over the top. And that’s one of the great perks of this album: it sounds full with a lot of energy, but the more you listen the more you realize how little is going on in each track and the more you appreciate the efficient use of reverb.
One thing to remember about the Smith Westerns is that they started out as a lo-fi/diy act. However, as their career went on, they were able to eclipse both garage and psychedelic music it such a perfect and modern way. They reached an essence that was of a cheap garage band but at the same time fulfilling the presence of flourishing prog rock group of the early 70s. Omori pretty much does this exact thing in this new record. “And Yet the World Still Turns” sounds like it is composed of a stage full of musicians but really only has like, at most, four instruments on the track. It’s full, minimal and satisfying. And really, surprising. “Cinnamon,” the single of the record, gets a bit more complicated, but really only with its percussion. There are a few digital effects that coincide with the snare drum that give it a nice atmosphere comparable to current bands like Foals and The National. Omori chases the theme of this song with tribal rhythms and pre-choral chants.
Eventually the album arrives at a kind if ballad, “Synthetic Romance” that realizes that relationships are hard. “All of my life/I’m just trying to make it all turn out right” states how difficult to it is to make things last. Romances, love, bands, etc. Life gets complicated and sometimes you need to move on. Omori chooses to move on with this track with confused lyrics and his bold organ. Finishing up the record, as well as sharing its title, “New Misery” is a song about coming to terms with a current situation. It opens with a melancholy guitar and the words, “Is it enough to be happy.” Omori is obviously struggling with a problem that isn’t cut and dry. Is it ok to just be? Before even writing this record he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a musician. There was a lot from the Smith Westerns that put a bad taste in his mouth, like deadlines from labels and a band that was indifferent to their own music. With this concluding track Omori sums up his feelings and his career with his former band. It’s bitter but for the best. It took hard hits and put a lot of negative thoughts in his head but thankfully it didn’t ruin his love for music. With this debut solo release, Cullen Omori proves to that he’s still good at writing music, and to himself, proves that he still loves writing it.