AMY O - SHELL 136474
1 LP
Amy Oelsner's homemade pop songs sparkle with these eternal truths: that story-telling is part of being alive, and excavating the past is part of growth.

Oelsner, who records as Amy O, is a lifer of the indie-pop underground for whom songwriting is a way of processing the passing of time.

Her latest, Shell, brims with poetic granular details of everyday life; its her third studio album, and tenth including her many years of home recordings.

Its title track is a beautiful, bouncing power-pop ode to grappling with the people you used to be, with twisty interlocking wordplay and bright hooks and harmonies.

Written after reading through a bunch of old emails and letters, "Shell" bops along with subtle heaviness as Oelsner revisits the minutiae of past lives, collaging a decade's worth of snapshots and people and places: "In the song, I'm looking back fondly on a younger version of myself, celebrating the ways I've grown since then and also seeing how I can reincorporate some of those traits I've lost over the years into myself now." Following 2017's Elastic, Oelsner continues living up to that album's namesake: Shell similarly stretches with melodies upon melodies.

But here there is greater use of space and pace and patience. Perfectly minimal riffs slowly build, ebb, erupt and recoil; guitars and keys layer and swell; there are moments of steady piano-pop, intricate drums and pristine criss-crossing vocal melodies.

On Shell, Oelsner deals in the outer and inner boundaries of self. She grapples with mortality, physical transiency and vulnerability, the concept of home.

There are homages to the formative relationships that shape our lives, imperfect as they may be.

There are meditations on the mundane daily routines that support mental and physical health; in her description of it, Oelsner wanted to honor invisible processing, the inward emotional labor that often goes unseen, the type of internal work that is "not encouraged by society and can make you feel like you're disappearing." The first song written for Shell was "Planet Blue," a song about the difficulty of grieving, but also about how lightness and silliness can sometimes coexist with depression.

"Crushed" is a perfect noisy pop miniature, a vignette of suburban teen life, sneaking out of windows to meet in parking lots.

"Good Routines" recalls Takeoffs and Landings era Rilo Kiley, as Oelsner sings that such routines are "only what you make them," while "Zero" builds on a crunchy drum machine into one of the album's stickiest refrains.
  • Tracklisting
  • 1.1. SHELL
  • 1.4. PLANET BLUE
  • 1.5. REST STOP
  • 1.6. ZERO
  • 1.8. CRUSHED
  • 1.10. SHRINKING
  • 1.11. LATER ON