When I first got the press release of ‘Ours’ by Blue Navy I was really interested to see where it was going. The album, which was independently released by 18-year-old Jake Dryzal of Johnstown Pennsylvania, was inspired by Slowcore and Dream Pop. Knowing this, I was quite excited. I’m an avid fan of Dream Pop and Slowcore has always been a good genre for hearing bleaker perspectives on life. Upon listening to this album, however, I was bitterly disappointed. Without sugar coating it, this is an objectively bad listening experience for a lot of reasons.
‘Ours’ is 8 tracks long and approximately fifty minutes of pure, unbridled teenage whining, he plays the victim but a cursory glance at the lyrics reveal it to be far more egocentric and bitter than that. It’s a breakup album where Dryzal laments over his ex-girlfriend, songs vary in length from the mercifully short ‘Without’, which stands at 2:31 seconds and the unforgivingly grating ‘Goodnight Sweet February’, which serves as a 10:38 minute masterclass in everything you should NOT do when producing a piece of music.
The vocals are all over the place on this album, the range sounds an octave too low for Dryzal to correctly project and as a result, they sound like a garbled mess most of the time. Even when listening through my MDR studio monitors, it was a struggle to find a lot of the lyrics intelligible. When they are clearer, I could best compare his performance to Aaron Pfenning of Chairlift on their 2008 track ‘Bruises’, only with far too much reverb and a lot more flubbed notes. There are a lot of issues with vocal tuning on this album, these takes needed some serious pitch correction or to be thrown out and redone, ‘Reflection I’ being one of the worst offenders.
I want to talk about ‘Goodnight Sweet February’ because that track was the nail in the coffin for me. The song begins with a synthesiser drone going into the main riff, which isn’t unpleasant. A lot of the electric guitar on here isn’t bad, it reminds me of Cigarettes After Sex who are one of my favourite ambient pop groups of the last ten years. The problem is nothing else matches it, vocals, guitar, the rhythm they all sound like they were recorded in completely different acoustic environments.
The most telling part comes from the spoken word section of this song, where Dryzal gives us an intimate view of his feelings after his breakup with all the artistic subtlety of a bull in a china shop. The angst is so real it is palpable, lines like “you are unaware of the suffering that you have created for me” and “I immediately knew that after I found out that you were not genuine, we would never be the same” should give you an idea of the level of emotional maturity here. The perspective is entirely focussed on how fallacious and awful this girl was to Dryzal but how he’s going to be the bigger man and rise up and move on.
The worst thing about this track comes in the form of a stock cymbal sound that sits over the top after it reaches its halfway point. I had to stop listening through my MDRs because it was physically painful. I was genuinely concerned that prolonged listening to this would put me in danger of getting Tinnitus, it’s levelled completely wrong and apart from not fitting in the mix, it hurt and not in the way, I believe, Dryzal intended for this song to hurt. This leads me to believe this was not created for other people to hear and more for Dryzal to work his way through his emotions. While I applaud the tenacity of taking your feelings and expressing them artistically, this whole album is a wash. If you’re not mindful enough to consider your audience’s hearing don’t release it and if you’re going to anyway, don’t ask people for money for it. Yes, he’s 18 and he did it all himself but there are tonnes of artists his age who produce far superior music with less of a budget and release it for free.