Outfitted with a deceptively powerful voice, Brian Kelly (who goes under the moniker Oceanography) is notoriously known for his lyrically driven indie rock work. The singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist completes his vision by layering poignant melodies over guitar, keys, and drums that provide a hollowing effect.
Kelly’s latest effort, Thirteen Songs About Driving Nowhere In Alphabetical Order, released in September, was abruptly rearranged primarily due to his focus on caring for his ailing older sister. The weight of the situation that the siblings found themselves in weighed heavily on Brian; many days featured him driving between Oakland and his childhood home in the East Bay, along with attending many doctors appointments. The songs on Thirteen Songs About Driving Nowhere in Alphabetical Order chronicles Kelly’s lonesome thoughts and feelings while painting cinematic landscapes from black asphalt, red taillights, and the fickle, foggy grey of Northern California skies
Today, Oceanography pays tribute to Cori in the deeply emotional video for “Monterey.” The clip contains photos of Brian’s sister from her early childhood to her final days, each showcasing a woman that seemingly lived a life that featured a lease on life that many strive for. What many would see it as a project that would have been unbearable to deal with, Brian found the sorting of Cori’s belongings and uncovering of the photos to be healing. “My sister was the family documentarian, and she was a collector of things. She had such a hard time at the end, so it was therapeutic for me to recognize she actually had a very happy life,” says Kelly.
Technically, Thirteen Songs… represents the culmination of Kelly’s career thus far, with a full, organic sound courtesy of a band of veteran players, including Scott Barwick (Jonathan Richman), Peter Labberton (Parquet Courts, St. Vincent), Bevan Herbekian (Teenager, Colors) and Kirt Lind (Donald Beaman).
Emotionally, it’s a full-on sonic gut-punch. Laced with unconventional twists on classic road songs, the record manages to feel both lush and minimalist, heartbreaking and beautiful — it’s no surprise to learn Kelly spent time with Destroyer and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska while making it. With the listener in the passenger seat, Kelly builds each track like a self-contained wave, layering synth, piano, guitars and percussion over one another until they crescendo.