French Camp – Odd Particle

written by: June 25, 2013
Album-art-for-Odd-Particle-by-French-Camp Release Date: May 7, 2013


French Camp’s second album, Odd Particle, defies being pinned to one genre. It’s anchored by the mellow, atmospheric sound that pervades each track, but the details add a layer of subtle complexity.

“Way To Your Heart” opens the album with minimal background music as singer Owen Beverly croons in half-monotone. Despite the simplicity, the opening line is not only melodic, but catchy. The rest of the band kicks in when Beverly sings, “You were the king of emotion, drifting in the ocean.” A hollow echo is added to the end of the line—one of many unique elements that give the music depth.

Beverly credits producer Josh Kaler with adding such details. “[He] has a knack for creating abstract sounds,” Beverly told American Songwriter, “so songs that had very humble beginnings ended up with complex personalities.”

As “Way To Your Heart” develops, staccato notes and atmospheric sounds paint the background, and on “Standing Room Only,” the music is joined by a dancing synth line, warped echoes, and quirky guitar licks.

However, these details hardly jump out at the passing listener, and they eventually blend into the same tone. On one hand, this speaks to French Camp’s (and Kaler’s) talent—not only did they integrate a myriad of genres, they made a cohesive album out of the mix—but it pushes Odd Particle into monotonous territory.

The first half of the album is lost in its own sound, awash in mellow waves of guitar and plucking, plopping synth notes, though the offbeat drums are always interesting. Lyrically, it can approach cheesiness, such as in the bridge of “Cover Girl:” “She’s so fine, she must be mine.” And the title of the fourth track, “Earthbound Angel,” speaks for itself.

“Blown Away” stands apart because of its upbeat tempo. It blends rich, heartland guitars with a hint of sunny, Californian beats, and a layer of whimsical chimes brightens the track even more.

“Blown Away” highlights the upside of French Camp’s tendency toward subtlety: at times, the full-bodied guitars swell out of the mix, and at others the sunny beat takes over, but the transition is always seamless and the track’s flow is never interrupted.

The most drastic change in sound comes near the end of the album, with “Day Of Dead.” Its jangly drums and occasional buzzing guitar are a stark contrast to the slow grooves that characterize Odd Particle.

In the chorus of “Cover Girl,” French Camp employs a melody remarkably similar to Radiohead’s “My Iron Lung,” though the verses host a simpler guitar riff. Beverly’s voice is low and breathy, almost hypnotic.

Toward the end of the track, a funkier beat plays underneath a sample of a father explaining the birds and the bees to his son. Later, a deep voice explains that “the changes that turn a boy into a man” happen all the time. “Golly, what changes?” asks the boy, and the powerful drum beat from the next track, “I Heart The South,” immediately jumps in.

This unexpected entrance is one of Odd Particle‘s most ear-catching moments, providing a tiny peek at some of the potential that goes untapped in most of the album.

Clearly, French Camp wields a hefty amount of talent, and they show a tendency to experiment. Odd Particle is an interesting album, suitable both for providing a background atmosphere on a nighttime drive and for listening to by oneself, unraveling its complexities. But, the music lacks a certain edge, possibly because French Camp shied away from bolder shifts in sound. Odd Particle sounds too careful and somewhat overproduced; rarely are there any moments of intensity.

French Camp’s second release is by no means a bad album, but there’s a mystery quality that seems just out of the band’s reach. French Camp is on the cusp of greatness—if it can unleash its potential by tiptoeing over the edge of its comfort zone, it will release one hell of a third album.

French Camp – Odd Particle tracklist:

  1. “Way To Your Heart”
  2. “The Midway”
  3. “Blown Away”
  4. “Earthbound Angel”
  5. “Cover Girl”
  6. “I Heart The South”
  7. “Standing Room Only”
  8. “Luna Moth”
  9. “Day Of Dead”
  10. “Albatross”