The Ophelias’ music is a contradiction. There’s a sense of intimacy to Almost, the Cincinnati band’s debut album, a feeling of closeness like sharing private thoughts inside of bedroom walls. But try to describe the quartet’s sound, and the grand scope of the music comes into view. Almost succeeds specifically because of this ability to give inner, at times unspoken, thoughts the lush complexities that come with those feelings.
The album, released by Joyful Noise and produced by WHY?’s Yoni Wolf, opens with lyricist/guitarist Spencer Peppet leading a dreamy wave of ‘40s-style vocal harmony into a crescendo of delay that ushers in bandmates Micaela Adams and Grace Weir on drums and bass respectively; Andrea Gutmann Fuentes soon joins on violin.
On Almost there’s a juxtaposition between more acoustic or traditional sounds and modern, digitally-aware production techniques, likely in part due Wolf’s role as producer. But The Ophelias work the two sides together with subtlety and tact—a pitch-shifted voice half-heard in the background (“House”), a delay blurring into feedback (“Lover’s Creep”)—often blending the two in less obvious ways.
Peppet focuses frequently on her own contradicting emotions as well, navigating, or at least recognizing, them. Themes of desire and control, or lack thereof, recur throughout the album. On “General Electric,” the lyrics seem to describe a fight between the two, admitting “I wanna be just like the girls you like; I wanna be what you fantasize,” despite a struggle for agency.
Though the penultimate track, “Zero,” repeats similar desires, it’s accompanied by the mantra “focus on the things you want; I know what you really want,” and by then it’s unclear if Peppet speaks to someone else or to herself.
Almost is impressive for its balance. The Ophelias have made intimacy and vulnerability into a nuanced and considerate musical sketch. While others might shy away from such full and detailed arrangements when expressing things so personal, this album manages to do so without diminishing the effect of either aspect.