WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
"Oceanography’s supercharged indie rock has nailed the forgotten art of anthemic guitar rock with a quirky underbelly, serving the non-status quo."
— Glide Magazine
“Oceanography manages to carve out its own sound, aided by Brian Kelly’s distinct vocals that recall the manic crooning of Suede’s Brett Anderson and Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen.”
— East Bay Express
“The temperament of the band on “Napoleon Holiday” reminds me of the great Pavement album “Slanted and Enchanted.” That ain’t bad company. Kelly’s voice in particular cuts through and leaves quite an impression.”
— Music on The Goe
“Best track you’ll hear all year about a collections agent who uses the name of a Hall of Fame baseball player as an alias.”
—The Bay Bridged
“Oceanography could be described as the best of what rock has offered in the last 20 to 40 years.”
— This is Book’s Music
“The sound, particularly Kelly’s vocals, make for an epic live performance.”
THIRTEEN SONGS... (09/10/2021)
Oceanography is a lyrically driven indie-rock project from San Francisco Bay Area singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Kelly. With a deceptively powerful voice, Kelly layers poignant melodies over guitar, keys and drums for a sound that has been compared to Damien Jurado and Jim James — though there are also threads of Echo & the Bunnymen and an obvious reverence for Tom Petty. His writing, meanwhile, turns a literary eye for detail on both the Pacific coastline and his own unpredictable edges, arriving honestly at moments of catharsis and beauty amid the bleak and mundane.
Thirteen Songs About Driving Nowhere in Alphabetical Order, out September 10th, is Oceanography’s second full-length. Written as Kelly abruptly rearranged his life to help care for his older sister, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, the record finds the musician mostly alone with his thoughts in cars. While it would eventually be brought to life by a full band — including Scott Barwick (Jonathan Richman), Peter Labberton (Parquet Courts, St. Vincent), Bevan Herbekian (Teenager, Colors) and Kirt Lind (Donald Beaman) — Thirteen Songs… remains a postcard from a place of deep solitude, uncertainty and grief: Driving between Oakland, his childhood home in the East Bay suburbs, and seemingly endless doctors’ appointments, Kelly paints cinematic landscapes from black asphalt, red tail lights, and the fickle, foggy grey of Northern California skies.
“Homes line the canyon like molars in your jaw, you grind ‘em together ‘til the feeling is gone,” sings Kelly over a plaintive piano line on “Monterey,” a song about changing family dynamics amid illness and grief. “It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault,” he insists before landing with gentle resignation: “We are prone to accidents close to home.”
On “Painted Powder Blue,” meanwhile, Labberton’s drums kick off a solo drive at a determined clip, as Kelly tries to focus on the freeway instead of a relationship’s end: “Coyote blood stains the 101, with my eyes on the road and my headlights on / swear I'm gonna stay ahead as long as I can, but every new day’s a day closer to gone.”
A visual artist by trade, Kelly also designed the record’s cover, which features one continuous line that winds in all directions — a literal drive to nowhere.
“These songs are about navigating the chaos and uncertainty that life can throw at you,” says Kelly, of themes that will likely resonate with just about everyone after the events of the past year. “How we deal with loss defines who we are, and that’s something I learned from my sister — she lost so much, and her ability to remain positive to the very end was remarkable. Maybe this record can, in some small way, help others find comfort in that part of life.”
COLLIER CANYON (10/04/2019)
Oceanography’s debut full-length album Collier Canyon is named after a winding road in the hills outside of Livermore, CA, the Bay Area suburb where the band’s primary member Brian Kelly grew up and where he returned to live. “I had planned on moving to LA, but then everything took a turn for the worse,” Kelly says. “First I was laid off from my job, then my girlfriend (and bandmate) broke up with me. So instead, in my mid-30s, I moved back in with my mom. It was a depressing situation. When I needed to clear my head, I'd take a drive in the hills outside of town."
It was during this extended return to his mom’s house that Kelly wrote and recorded much of Collier Canyon – a meticulously crafted indie rock meditation on loss and nostalgia, fueled by an extended stint of confinement in his childhood hometown. On “Rainbow Records”, Kelly wistfully remembers the mixtapes and record stores of his suburban youth: “I pull out your old Maxell tapes and play some radio songs… I remember you in ’84 knocking it around to Purple Rain in the record store.” On the title track, Kelly describes a memory from the final days of a past relationship. With yelped vocals and layered, angular guitar lines that recall some of the most acclaimed bands of the aughts like The National, Grizzly Bear, and LCD Soundsystem, the songs themselves even seem to yearn for something recently lost.
While Kelly recorded much of Collier Canyon at his mom’s house in Livermore, he added finishing touches at 25th Street Recording – a world-class recording studio in Oakland. The finished album blends the intimacy of a home recording with the pristine clarity of a big-budget project. This sonic aesthetic mirrors the emotional conflict at the center of the album. There is a claustrophobic melancholy looming just beneath the orderly exterior of these songs and their narrators. In this way, Collier Canyon is reminiscent of a collection of Raymond Carver stories. On "Bow Ribbons", when Kelly sings, “While the trains may run on time, my loose ends remain untied,” he could be speaking for any suburban commuter in America, nursing hidden pain while still managing to make it to work each morning.
While Oceanography’s first two EPs made a splash in the SF Bay Area – with The Bay Bridged naming the song “Reggie Jackson” one of the best tracks of 2012 – Collier Canyon is a bold artistic statement that could boost the band’s recognition on a national scale. With a short story writer’s eye for detail, Oceanography’s Brian Kelly is skillfully carrying the torch for a strain of ambitious, guitar-driven indie rock that has been sorely missed in the past decade.