Review of olivar’s “it’s ok to be honest”

Nashville based rock group, olivar, made up of Cole Maness and Parker Deal, released their debut EP “it’s ok to be honest” this past week.  As a lifelong friend of Cole’s, I quickly downloaded the album and gave it a listen.  Rather than just casual listening, though, “it’s ok to be honest” stirred me to honest contemplation.  From start to finish, this brief EP shows the strength of olivar, both musically and lyrically.  Each individual track combines well into a cohesive picture of reality, undergirded by strong message of hope.

The EP begins with “daybreak”, a bright song carried along by a pulsing drum beat.  This track sets the tone that is carried on throughout the EP.  The chorus rings out, “oh, to see the rising tide, a mountain upon us and smile” which touches something of resilience in the face of adversity.  The song ends musically with a really nice break down and build up, creating a nice launching pad for the next track “embers”.

In contrast to fast breaking drums of “daybreak”, the next track “embers” begins with slow, methodical guitar that matches well with Cole’s reverberated vocals.  The synchronization of guitar and vocals creates a haunting sense of retrospections.  The lyrics, “looking for some direction/ looking for neon signs/ in the woods, in the pines/ anything but a reflection” capture well the common human bond of longing.  The song seeks to impart the subtle truth that this relentless longing comes from the exilic nature of mankind as seen in the lyrics, “all the earth seems to be/ is a lesson in belief/ not a place to call home.”  In spite of this, there remains a thread of hope seasoned throughout.

This brings us to the title track, “to be honest”.  Carrying the tone of a confession, olivar takes a shot at transparency.  Though full of fears and faults, the lyrics suggest a sort of cleansing: “With a pen an inch from the page/I retract the anchor from all my mistakes”.  This track is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  The obscurity of the lyrics helps the listener relate them to his or herself with ease, making the song have a more personal feel.  The tone reminds me of Relient K’s “Forget and Not Slow Down” album and would fit in well with it.  Musically the drums and the guitar play off each other to create a track that is both somber and hopefully, and overall enjoyable.

The EP continues with the simplistic (and I mean that positively) track “86”.  The bass guitar really is featured nicely, especially paired with the drums.  The song consists of two lines, “knock it all over/watch it fall into place”, showing once again the ambivalence that presents itself throughout this EP.   This is where chaos and peace meet.  In spite of adversity, there is an ultimate hope.

The EP concludes with the track “blood moon”.  This track includes two symmetrical verses that highlight this same longing that has followed us throughout the EP.  This track is lyrically interesting, but it’s really the musicality of olivar that shines on “blood moon”.  The bridge begins what seems to be a symphony of chaos.  Although the guitar is relatively consistent, the drums continue to become more and more erratic as the song builds.  This is all undergirded with subtle shouts of “blood moon” behind it all that ties the climb together nicely.  Yet, we aren’t left here.  When we reach the climax and the chords begin to fade away, we are presented a much welcomed reprise of “embers”.  The added banjo with the acoustic guitar really solidifies this transition, as the song and the EP come to a masterful end.

Just as the title of the EP suggests, olivar seeks above all to make honest music.  Sometimes it’s raw, sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but it’s always undergirded with an unshakeable hopefulness.  Beginning with “daybreak” and ending with “blood moon”, the listener is brought full circle.  The strength of this EP is its cohesiveness.  Each track fits perfectly and adds to the overall theme.  Overall I would give this EP a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  No track really sets itself above any of the others as the highlight of the EP, but taken together as a complete picture, olivar has created a strong first attempt that leaves the listener seeking more.

Download “it’s ok to be honest” here: