Cinematic without a punchline.
Its difficult to get a grasp on ‘Upon a Painted Ocean’ by Rob Johnson, which is not to say its bad, there's not too much to dislike, its just hard to say what to like about it. It is hard to think of any moment where you feel that the album has came to life, its as though its permanently on the starting block, its revving its engines and giving you the impression it could roar off into the distance. That moment never comes leaving the listener sort of listless and unsure what to make of the record. The acoustic hum and strum is nice, its well played and it keeps moving, slowly but always onwards but theres not much to hang on to. Vocals and lyrics aren’t for everyone, that's fair enough but the odd smattering in the first half of the record would have really helped involve the listener and welcome them into the record.
The intricate plucking on ‘Maimed Titles’ is really nice and well worth listening to and could well feature in the background of many TV shows or mix compilations but even that starts to grate and age by the end of its run. The change of tone in the grittier guitar adds to it by bringing some extra life but equally, it manages to detract from the beauty and again, leave you crying out for some vocals to allow a better contrast to be made.
This is the pattern for the rest of the album, there are some good electronic moments and wizardry on tracks like ‘...End credits’ but not enough to make the rest of the record worth listening to over and over. In a way, its a great shame, its a more intricate and thought out record than many that will wind up in peoples homes this year but it doesn’t do enough.
If you want a challenge or you like a record that has to work its way into your favours, then this may well be a great project for you to try out but if you don’t have the time to spare, this may go over your head.