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Whitehall – Ocean Fiction (Review)

Whitehall’s debut album Ocean Fiction feels like a Whitehall concert in your living room. They’ve made a name for themselves with an energetic stage presence that buzzes right through the crowd, and Ocean Fiction takes that buzz and packs it neatly into nine songs that are designed to show you exactly what I’m talking about. Ocean Fiction has the self-consciously innocent lyrics, the sax, and the danceable melodies that started their momentum rolling in the first place. The difference now is that Whitehall has a few East Coast tours and a headlining slot at Extra Chill Fest under their belt, all before they had even released a proper album.

Ocean Fiction starts with the familiar “Vacation Home”, which was released back in March as the first official single from the album, and has since become in my eyes the quintessential Whitehall song. “Vacation Home” sets the tone for what I see as Whitehall’s “growing up” album. They’ve come a long way from the early days playing for a crowd that consisted mostly of College of Charleston students, and Ocean Fiction is a testament to them breaking out of the confines of a college mindset and into the “adult” world, both musically and personally.

A major highlight on the record for me comes smack in the middle with “Wasted”. It’s got all of Whitehall’s strengths as a band, without coming across too strong. The sax is just subtle enough, serving as a welcome accent and showing itself at just the right times to keep the energy up. The lyrics touch upon trying to reconcile with your actions after a night of too much alcohol, coming just close enough to the realization that maybe alcohol isn’t such a great place to find courage after all.

That actually points toward the theme that runs throughout Ocean Fiction. No, it’s not all about the regret that comes after a night of drinking too much, but that does play a role in it. With Ocean Fiction, Whitehall is grappling with several realities of growing up, including having accountability for your actions, thinking in terms of the big picture, and sorting out your relationships to find the ones that are truly meaningful.

Whitehall doesn’t claim to have all the answers, though. Ocean Fiction is simply a frame in time that shows a few young lads coming to terms with themselves and starting to figure out a sense of direction in their lives. In the meantime they’re just trying to have some fun, just like the rest of us.

Ocean Fiction will be released to the world on Friday, October 12th. Celebrate the release with them tomorrow night at The Royal American, where they’ll be joined by Daddy’s Beemer and Gardeners. Show starts at 9pm. Tickets are $8 at the door.