On Jan. 29, 2021, pop/rock band Weezer released their fourteenth full-length record “OK Human.” The album follows a man reflecting on life, family, and music while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does the album relate to all-too-relatable subject matters, but also provides 30 minutes of ridiculously catchy light rock music with some welcomed experimental elements.
Weezer has had an interesting past few years. Both their twelfth and thirteenth albums, “Weezer [Teal Album]” and “Weezer [Black Album]” respectively, received mixed to poor reviews in their 2019 release year. “Teal Album” was an underwhelming cover record, while “Black Album” was completely foreign to Weezer’s mostly pop-sounding discography. Fortunately, 2020 showed promise with the release of amazing singles such as “End of the Game,” aligning with the promotion of their “Hella Mega Tour” still in movement for mid-2021. In addition, the 2020 singles are part of the “Van Weezer” album set to release later this year.
With Weezer’s willingness to try different sounds, “OK Human” follows suit by contrasting the power rock sounds of the 2020 singles. Instead, to align with the quarantining theme, the album is much more reserved, emulating music made within the comfort of one’s home. This is not to say the album is produced and/or sounds unprofessional. The sound mixing throughout the album is solid and the band primarily feels on point with another. Even musicianship showed advancement, as this album features some of the cleanest drum rhythms and fills drummer Patrick Wilson has ever played.
Speaking of production, this album has a unique aspect when compared to other Weezer works. Each song features a string section, along with a few tracks included select horned instruments. The ensemble does well adding flavor to the songs without overpowering the band’s style of rock and vocalist River Cuomo’s singing. There were also moments where strings were used to emulate classic rock sounds, such as a staccato string rift on “Screens” reminiscent of the guitar riff in Roy Orbinson’s “Pretty Woman.”
The opening track “All My Favorite Songs” does an excellent job introducing the album’s overarching aspects. The track establishes both the album’s string sounds and upbeat energy, creating a fun first song for listeners. “Aloo Gobi,” the album’s second song, keeps the energy going. I liked how the chorus lines “walking down Montana” are featured for a song where the drums emulate someone walking down the street.
“Grapes of Wrath” follows these two great songs by spotlighting Cuomo’s lyrical ability. This song uses slightly darker instrumentation, as Cuomo references literature he’s read over quarantine. It’s interesting to see a maturing of sound and lyrics from the band, especially after featuring some bizarrely sexual and rebellious songs in their history.
The lyrics also display the band’s strange humor in songs like “Playing My Piano” and “Screens.” The former is notable, as it sounds like a dramatic stage musical number while featuring lyrics such as, “Kim jung-Un could blow up my city I’d never know.” Unfortunately, “Screens” was one of the less notable tracks of the album without much musical flare to make it stand out amongst the other tracks.
“Playing My Piano” is also notable for leading into the track “Mirror Image.” This track, only slightly over a minute, features booming drums and guitars, mixing with piano sounds resembling a church ballad. The song and its romantic lyrics feel like a ceremony, and its short length actually makes the moment feel more special.
One feat of the album is its ability to darken a song’s tone without losing the catchy appeal of the lighter songs. For example, the song “Numbers” slows down the tempo to tackle themes of self-comparison and expectations literally through numbers. Songs such as these show the ability to follow themes lyrically without the lyrics becoming hokey, along with featuring genuinely beautiful instrumentation.
“Dead Roses” is where I feel the strings aspect of the album works best. Here you have a bossa-nova sound mixed with an elegant ballroom string ensemble. The track is likely the most musically interesting piece on the album. The mix of instruments blended perfectly the entire song.
Besides “Screens” the other song off for the album’s high standard is “Here Comes The Rain.” Although the track is a fun listen, the strings here feel rather uninspired, especially after the previous song’s complex string arrangements. Even Cuomo’s vocal performance here seems less energetic than other tracks.
“La Brea Tar Pits,” the album’s final song, features all the positives of the album. The song provides a catchy send off, with the final moments of string solos providing a pleasant conclusion for the entire record.
I cannot overstate how many times I found myself smiling and nodding to the beat during listens of the album. The album will act as both a timepiece of the lockdown era and a superb addition to Weezer’s rich discography. Even if you’re unaccustomed to Weezer’s music, give this album a play if you have a spare 30-minutes.
Weezer’s Ok Human is a 9/10