It seems to be a common trend for bands to become set on one sound and never fully branch from their original roots. They remain fairly stagnant and it becomes mundane for the listener because the band has no sound evolution. After an album or two, everything sounds the same. The listener feels cheated out of the latest album and is often left craving for something new and different.
The most talented musical acts are able to evolve their sound throughout their career. They don’t keep everything the same, and their creativity is always being pushed to the next level. It makes their fans eager for more, and their exploration and music evolution often is real ear candy for even the casual fan.
O.A.R, which is short for “of a revolution”, has always been a progressive and changing band. Their sound has never seemed stationary, and they are always transforming and advancing their style. Each album has a completely different feel, but these alterations never seem haphazard or forced. Instead, they’ve figured out how to create an ever-changing sound, which really deserves some recognition.
O.A.R.’s “Nor For Me”
It wasn’t until 2003 that the American band hit the US record charts peaking at 54 with their album In Between Now and Then. They have always evolved their sound to fit a more mainstream audience. Although the 2001 album Risen hit 44 on the US Indie charts, it didn’t quite have that mainstream acceptance yet that so many bands fail to achieve.
After originally forming in 1996, O.A.R. recorded and then self-released their first album The Wanderer in 1997. Although the band was still in high school when the album was made, it basked in popularity primarily on college campuses. The album contained songs like “Get Away” and “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker.” A sound that mixed pop like vocal harmonies and distorted guitars with a warmer feel, they were able to quickly set themselves apart from other acts of the time.
In 2000 under the label Oarfin Records, the band recorded their sophomore album Soul’s Aflame. Progressing their sound more towards a warmer, pop rock sound, they began embracing the brighter rock music sound and became more famous in the early 2000s. Abandoning the majority of their grunge influences and flavors, they developed into a sound even better received by the masses. Tracks like “City on Down” and “The Wanderer” really showcase the bands more mainstream early 2000s sound.
When the band signed with Everfine Records in 2001, they recorded their third album Risen, which peeked at slot 44 on the Billboard Independent Albums list. O.A.R. began evolving into the more matured and tight sound that is synonymous with the group now. Many of the tracks on this album were taken from previous ones and updated and tightened.
Their fourth album In Between Now and Then was released in 2003 after signing with Lava Records. The collection peeked at number 54 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Featuring tracks like “Whose Chariots,” “Mr. Moon,” and “Old Man Time,” the band’s overall vibe progressed and matured to a smoother sound. This was the album that really brought the group to another level, and gave rise to the sound synonymous with the group today.
In 2005 while still working with Lava Records they recorded their fifth studio album, Stories of a Stranger. Reaching number 40 on the U.S. Billboard charts, it was the best-received album at the time for the band and is what began to bring about their mainstream success. This album seemed to be a major contributing step in their transition towards a more pop-rock sound as well. Utilizing developed instrumentals, more intricate rhythm patterns, and more advanced lyrics, they continued their progression to the pop-rock powerhouse they are recognized as today.
All Sides, the band’s sixth studio album, hit 4th on the Billboard Rock charts and 13th on the Billboard Top 200 charts. Although most critics didn’t receive the album well, fans everywhere seemed to welcome the album with open arms. The catchy instrumentals mixed with the easy vocals on tracks like “Shattered [Turn the Car Around]” seemed to captivate fans. Finally, O.A.R. had reached a level of mainstream success that they had been fighting for years to attain. Despite the less than flattering critics, people everywhere were singing and enjoying the matured, refined and refreshing sound of the once again redefined O.A.R.
The latest album, King, released in August of 2011 continued the band’s pop rock but catchy formula. Songs like “Heaven” and “Not For Me” seem to both relate to listeners on a personal level and also showcase the group’s talent. The album peeked at number 2 on the Billboard Rock charts and number 12 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. Reflective and polished vocals, inspiring instrumentals, and simple beats quickly envelop the listener into the depths O.A.R.’s creativity.
For the past fifteen years O.A.R. has gone through many transformations. Moving from a grungier, more stereotypical nineties band to a mainstream, catchy pop rock group, they have never been short of interesting. Their ever-changing style continues to both delight and surprise fans of all generations. There’s no denying that O.A.R. is a group that has the ability to stay relevant to old fans but also lure in new ones. It will always be exciting to hear the next sound that the band will be able to create for fans.
By: Denny Ganahl