“I had this overwhelming feeling that perhaps the apex of my life both as a musician and as an individual would be relegated to five years in my late teens/early 20s,” says former Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori. The group split in December of 2014, but he was determined to see them not “as an end but as a point along a bigger trajectory.” His debut solo full-length is the spellbinding next point on that very trajectory.
Writing, playing and overseeing almost every aspect of New Misery, Omori has excelled as a result being in complete control of his destiny. Whereas the sound of the Smith Westerns was very much guitar-centric, Omori’s first individual sees shimmering synths assume a more integral role, and whilst there’s a strong psychedelic streak running throughout it, this is an inherently pop record.
Though it feels experimental to an extent, New Misery is the sound of someone who’s supremely confident in the result of their experiments. Standout single ‘Cinnamon’ is the clearest evidence of this, a chiming and charming affair, albeit one that’s tinged with a certain sadness stemming from Omori’s self-deprecating state at the time.
This is pop music of the bittersweet kind, where the joy always comes entwined with melancholy. From the slow-burning introspection of ‘And Yet the World Still Turns’ and the delicate ‘Poison Dart’, to ‘Hey Girl’ and ‘LOM’ where New Misery kicks up several gears, Omori provides one constant: pure enchantment. There is life after the Smith Westerns, and it’s sounding pretty darn sweet.