Danish quintet Oh No Ono’s second album, Eggs, was recorded over a period of nine months on Denmark’s Isle of Mon using several studios and a handful of oddball locales, including forests, beaches, and abandoned buildings. But this relative isolation doesn’t manifest sonically; on the contrary, all 10 tracks feature wall-to-wall sweeping arrangements, environmental sounds and unusual instrumentation, including trumpeting elephants, birds in flight, water-filled tubs as percussion instruments, and a prodigious choir comprising the band’s friends.
In less ambitious, talented hands, all these factors — especially when paired with an eye-roller of a band name and song titles like “Internet Warrior” and “Miss Miss Moss” — would add up to unbearable pretension. Yet on Eggs, the effects that could come off as empty posturing are instead mollified by playful sensibilities. These songs are opulent without feeling excessive and oddly delicate-sounding, considering their multitudinous layers.
It takes considerable skill to make music like this, but accomplished craftsmanship shouldn’t seem laborious, and the songs on Eggs certainly don’t. “Internet Warrior” is an especially fine example of this principle — and also of the proper way to keep music with an epic scope firmly in the realm of pop. This is largely attributable to the track’s keening strings and a slow, infectious dancehall-style beat. And although it’s one of the album’s more understated tracks, “Swim” is another excellent stab at cosmic grandeur; its contemplative opening is a nice foil to a wall of sound chorus.
Standout tracks “Helplessly Young” and “The Wave Ballet” exemplify Oh No Ono’s aptitude for creating songs that truly evolve. “Young” begins as a frenetic, Devo-channeling synth number that morphs into a swirling chorus, then peaks with an Abbey Road-worthy coda. In “The Wave Ballet” the band expertly uses strings to facilitate the transition from liturgical to glamorous, propelled the whole way by a burbling bass line and skittish drums. On the whole, Eggs’ offerings are at their best when they evolve continuously; the tracks that constantly pitch changeups at the listener fare the best, while more consistent, paced tracks sound tedious in comparison. For example, “Beelitz” is initially both exciting and dynamic, but a lack of variation in both instrumentation and time signature — paired with a piano riff that starts off propulsive and ends up grating — makes this track a bit tiresome.
Although ostensibly grand and far-reaching, anthemic pop songs are most effectual if — like an egg– they’re self-contained, making Eggs an especially apt title for this album. Down to the minute details, epic pop should center on creating a tiny, vibrant world that begins and ends within the space of the song, and Eggs’ best songs truly achieve this aim.