O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) released their sixth studio album All Sides last week, to both critical and fan distaste. Some see the new record as a bit too poppy and that's led to mixed reviews including this Rolling Stone review that says among other things that O.A.R. have, "...cultivated a slick pop sound to match their arena-size ambitions."
I can certainly see why some might feel that way. All Sides features songs that do sound more polished and that's largely thanks to producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5). The big thing about the record that jumps out to me is that the songs have a much more mature sound. While I've always hated making the comparison, in some spots this record feels a bit Dave Matthews Band inspired.
I think the band has come a long way and this album is potentially as good a studio album as the band has put out. Despite Rolling Stone only giving All Sides 2 stars, they also gave In Between Now And Then, potentially O.A.R.'s best studio album just 2 stars when it released in 2003.
One thing that's clear on this effort is that the addition of Mikel Paris (keys, bongos, back-up vocals) really helps to fill out their sound. The featured song today, the first single off the album, "Shattered (Turn The Car Around)" benefits from and leans on Paris' key riff throughout. Other album cuts show Paris' flair on the bongos. "Whatever Happened" opens with a tribal sounding intro with nice percussion and a strange vocal that melts into Jerry DePizzo's saxophone part.
There are some songs that sound more like older O.A.R. songs. Tracks like "Living In The End", "What Is Mine" and "This Town" which was featured heavily on ESPN's coverage of the College World Series this year manage to blend their new maturity with the more upbeat classics of their past.
It's exciting to watch a band that continues to grow and push themselves as they get older. Clearly, O.A.R. still hopes to become more mainstream but they still stay true to their roots for the most part. Ultimately, this is a band that will continue to earn their bread on the road for some time as they will no doubt keep filling venues all over the U.S.
Based on early listens, I would definitely recommend this album to both new and old O.A.R. fans alike.