Funny story.. Cullen Omori invited me to sit in his car for a lil’ preview of this album in August of 2015. My friend and I never got around to accepting the offer since we were enjoying our time boating on Lake Michigan. Regrets… Anyway… my friend recognized that the angsty-looking guy on the boat with the hair covering his face was the lead of Smith Westerns. Cullen was with his friend who also had a boat in the Chicago harbor. We got into conversation about his musical career. I got the vibe from Cullen that the Smith Westerns broke up on bad terms. Cullen, chain-smoking Marlboros, complained that now as a solo artist, it was hard to make a living. We spoke about local Chicago bands from The Orwells to Modern Vices to Liqs. Going with my family to a family friend’s boat, I didn’t expect to be hanging out with the lead singer of Smith Westerns.
Here’s a picture of us having a good ol’ time:
My friend Ellie on the left, Cullen in the middle and me (Ally!) on the right.
Overall, Cullen’s album, New Misery was average. Nothing popped out at me as amazing or innovative. His music still has the same indie rock vibe the Smith Westerns gave off, but there was not a certain hit like “Weekend” by Smith Westerns that blew me away.
I could not really grab onto the music. The song that got me almost latched on was “Sour Silk.” I really liked the experimentation with a chorus choir. It reminded me of Ryan Gosling’s musical project, Dead Man’s Bones, except more upbeat. I enjoyed that he incorporated the choir more than once; “Synthetic Romance” also features a chorus choir.
The vocals in most of the songs are drowned out by hazy synths. For example, it took me a while to figure out that the song “Poison Dart” was saying “oooo that poison dart” and not “oooo that poison dog.” That is his style though, distorted, dreamy lyrics. The lyrics, overall, were not too ingenious but they weren’t too cliché. Maybe besides the lyrics in “No Big Deal” repetitively saying “creature of habit, torn leather jacket.”
I appreciate the fact that the guitar riffs throughout the songs are clear and he did not go down the lo-fi path. I think with his pop-y voice he made the right decision to make more of an indie pop rock album. I could see his next album being even better if he made it more new wave since he has a voice and vibe reminiscent of that genre.
I cannot see this album having much of impact on his whole financial situation he mentioned to me before. I hope I can run into him again sometime and tell him I gave his music a listen after denying his pre-release car party.
Key Tracks: “Cinnamon” “Sour Silk” “Hey Girl”