Oh Be Clever
Cover songs present a slew of issues-from trying to make an original song sound original again to avoiding sounding different just for the sake of sounding different- and somewhere in the midst of those issues lies some sort of a sweet spot, a sweet spot Utah superduo Oh, Be Clever have set up shop in for the entirety of their cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”.
From the onset, singer Brittney Shields’ voice (which I have at this point given up trying to find more superlatives for) takes up a haunting tone to pair with Producer/Writer Cory Layton’s ideal as always soundscape while the record presents a caressing yet cold tone. The contrast between the lullaby-like tone of Shields’ vocals and the dark lyrics she recites captures the essence of the song in ideal fashion.
Layton’s work on the instrumental gives new life to the record. The grim overall sound of the instrumental plays out at a slower pace than the original, lending to that aforementioned contrast as well.
Listen to “Mad World” here:
When Oh, Be Clever released “Love You Now” around the beginning of the summer, I was majorly impressed by the way Brittney Shields’ vocals sounded over the softer soundscape Cory Layton had put together. “Love You Now” was something very different from the duo, and I praised the versatility present in the record. For reference, here’s that original track:
But I know what you were wondering. “What if this track, being one of the more laid back Oh, Be Clever songs yet, was even MORE laid back? Like ‘haven’t moved from the couch in hours’ kind of laid back?” Well that’s where Jeff & Philo come in.
This remix sounds like one of those looped vine videos of someone riding a bike behind some super bright summer video filter. The synth work on the instrumental sounds scientifically designed to force you to chill, and the non-offending drums lend to that feeling. I could imagine playing this remix for around 2 days in a row without finding the motivation to stop it- partially because of how good it is and partially because of how calm I feel listening to it. The added genius of this remix lies in the way Jeff & Philo took a genre which usually ditches vocals for instrumentals and still allowed Brittney Shields’ vocals to play a major part in the overall sound.
In the years I’ve followed Utah superduo Oh, Be Clever, one thing that has impressed me a great deal has been their versatility; and it is again versatility that impresses on their new release, “Love You Now”.
“Love You Now” a bit of an exercise of the abnormal for both Layton and Shields when compared to the rest of their releases. For producer/writer Layton, the usual “big” sounding instrumentals have become a staple, but during the four minutes of “Love You Now”, the interesting kick pattern draws most of the attention for the beat as soft synths fill in the verses and a wavy guitar contributes on the chorus. The spacey overall feel of the instrumental presents an ideal backdrop for the vocals to shine on.
From a vocal standpoint, listeners are met with the softest sounding track from Brittney Shields yet. Shields usually switches between the powerhouse vocals of “Next To You“, the chilling vocals of “Blanket“, or even a potent mixture of the two, but the sound she creates over the instrumental of “Love You Now” is one that perfectly fits a theme that the duo doesn’t address too often. Oh, Be Clever love songs are often times crafted with a bleak outlook; songs like “Lost You“, “Next To You” (specifically the bridge), and “Paint Me Gold” can easily illustrate my point, but the coaxing tone of the lyrics match that similar vocal tone of “Love You Now” to create what sounds like the most hopeful love song the duo have released to date.
Check out “Love You Now” Here!
When it comes to Oh, Be Clever and their smash of a recent single, “Blanket“, one of the defining features is harmony between producer/writer Cory Layton and vocalist Brittney Shields. Having worked together exclusively over their catalog of releases, the two have become incredible at telling stories, and as you’ll see in the video for “Blanket”, those story telling skills easily carry over into visuals.
Layton and Shields used nothing but iPhones as their cameras and themselves to film the video, an artistic commitment that ended not only in the death by submergence of one of the aforementioned cameras, but also a very personal, believable music video. Brittney again flexes some top-tier acting skills as she has throughout the rest of the group’s videos, and combined with Cory’s editing wizardry, the duo undeniably did justice to one of their best songs.
Check out the video for “Blanket” below!
It’s been a few months since we’ve heard from Salt Lake City superduo Oh, Be Clever, but the silence ended a couple of days ago with the release of their new track, “Blanket”.
“Blanket” finds Brittney of OBC striking a perfect medium between the eerie vocals of the verse and the glossy vocals of the hook, a medium found in impeccable harmony specifically during the bridge. Performances like these are no surprise coming from Brittney Shields, but the way she switches between vocal fireworks, crawling trills, and lullaby-like softness in mere seconds checks every possible mark on the list.
Producer/Writer Cory Layton brought his “A” game to the table (like always) as well. One hallmark of Oh, Be Clever songs has always been a solid weave of electronic and acoustic/analog sounds, and the instrumental of “Blanket” stands out as just that. From the massive sounds around the chorus to the simply strummed guitar after the bridge, this track impresses across the board.
Listen to “Blanket” here:
31 days up, and 31 days down. Per usual, the team over at Sunset has gotten together to bring you the best new songs to be put out in August. Phenomenal list, as always!
Highlights this month:
Kygo released not one, but two random piano tracks. Chance The Rapper made an appearance this month. Skizzy Mars keeps on releasing dope remixes. Oh, he also hopped on his buddy, Allday’s “Grammy.” Oh, Be Clever flexed their muscles with their latest release, “River.” The recent out pour of Gallant’s “Weight in Gold” remixes is intimidating, but we decided to give you a standout from Sweater Beats. Sol dropped some wise knowledge on us.
Hit the jump for the Soundcloud stream and download!
For a product of a fight between two rival bands, Oh, Be Clever has shown a surprising grip on the concept of harmony. Behind the powerhouse vocals of singer/songwriter Brittney Shields, and the master of all trades production and writing skills of Cory Layton, the group has crafted a perfect combination of indie, electronic, soul, and pop music with a ceiling that has yet to be seen. I recently sat down with Cory and Brittney to talk music. Hit the jump to read our conversation.