Oracle Sisters may as well be called Wes Anderson, the band. The Paris-based trio of Lewis Lazar, Christopher Willatt and Julia Johansen, together conjure up a sepia-tinted indie folk sound that is wistful, whimsical, poignant, and playful, all at once. Their debut album, Hydranism, plays much like stepping into one of Anderson’s vividly crafted cinemascapes.
None of that is to point to any unoriginality on behalf of Oracle Sisters, but to say that they, like the esteemed director, make meaningful art that thrives on charm and nostalgia. From their album artwork to their carefully curated stage and social media presence, they exude an air of a bygone era when a music group represented more than just the music they made, but the world they inhabited. This attention to aesthetic detail only complements and adds to the musical experience, and really the best part of Oracle Sisters is that the substance is there to match the style.
Drawing from the cafe jazz of the 1950s, the baroque psychedelia of the 1960s, the folk ballads of the 1970s, and the dreamy synth-pop of the 1980s, their music embodies a rich timelessness that doesn’t feel stagnant. Their arrangements are drenched in warm, analog tones, at the heart of which are acoustic guitars, a bass, a dusty upright, a dry-sounding drum set, and a tape machine – lending an authentic touch to their compositions. It is nice to hear each member of the band exchange vocal duties, and Christopher, who seems to sing most of the lead, has a Dylan-esque voice well suited to this style. While this is Oracle Sister’s debut record, this is hardly their first rodeo. Oracle Sisters have been showing promise ever since they began releasing a string of singles four years ago accompanied by some memorable music videos.
Hydranism is thus a refined effort and it sounds as such. Retiring to the Greek island of Hydra during the onset of the pandemic, the band had ample time and space to pen the eleven tunes that together make Hydranism. While the album opens with arguably what are its strongest cuts, “Tramp Like You,” “Hail Mary,” “RBH,” and “Hot Summer,” it does not let up in terms of quality. Each of the eleven songs effortlessly blend together, creating a seamless narrative that feels like a collection of mini-musical vignettes, each with its own distinct personality. For fans of Oracle Sisters already, this release was much anticipated, and the band delivered with poise and a light touch.
Come for the vibes, stay for the music.