Cullen Omori, the former lead singer of Chicago’s Smith Westerns, is making his solo debut two years after the band declared an indefinite hiatus. In the aftermath of Cullen’s early fame as a prodigy shoegazer with the Smith Westerns, he struggled coping with the possibility that the hiatus could mark the end of his success musically. In an interview for Sub Pop, Omori said “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.”
This period of identity crisis brought out new inspirations and propelled Omori into writing New Misery, an album made in reminisce and rebirth. It documents his transformation and journey to becoming a solo act, a conversion where weightless guitar solos exchange for the sorrow reverberations of backing synth lines. The beginning of the album boasts a sweeping synthesizer leading into heavily ringing vocals that lie above a constant foundation of organs and high passed guitars. The combination of all this at once is at times too much and a majority of the songs lack in definition.
The washed out and overly dreamy sound make most of the songs not really something that will stick in your head, but there are a few sticks in the mud that throwback to the Smith Westerns. In particular, “Cinnamon” and “Sour Silk.” These tracks are dark, poppy, and as memorable as any Smith Western’s hit. Overall, Cullen’s solo style in New Misery is a more mature Smith Westerns sound, along with a few unique gems.
Recommended If You Like: Smith Westerns, Michael Nau, Cloud Nothings, Surfer Blood
Recommended Tracks: 5 (Cinnamon), 1 (No Big Deal), 7 (Sour Silk), 8 (Synthetic Romance)
Do Not Play: None
Written by Kerry Thomas on 04/15/16