Artist: Black Oxygen
Album: The Times of Our Lives (Collection)
Label: Sony Orchard/Curtain Call Records
Since their humble beginnings in Kansas City, boundary-breaking rock duo Black Oxygen have been a testament to what hard work can do for a music career. With the release of their latest album, The Times of Our Lives (Collection), they not only have broken personal records but have set standards high for the rock community in general. For example, their latest single “Everything” has reached #1 on Billboard’s “Most Added” chart and continues to see mass levels of success. While they ride the wave, they’ve toured Canada, were invited to Hugh Hefners final Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion a few years back (which inspired the album’s title track) and even collaborated with artists like Shifty Shellshock (CrazyTown) and KC’s own Tech N9ne! They even had the chance to perform the latter of the two on Fox TV with Young Miller Tha Don (see video below)
Let’s talk about their sound and how they manage to stay ahead of the curve, though. While they dabbled more in the pop/hip-hop realm with their latest EP, City of Angels, this album displays just how much the pair have grown as songwriters, offering the best of both worlds. Independent until their signing to Sony Orchard/Curtain Call Records, they found the right team to help them develop their vision. Vocalist David Lyle strays out of his comfort zone and gets more vulnerable than ever on this album. Lyrically, this album is the most personal he’s ever been and displays the hardships of life in LA and what it takes to make it. There are also references to drug use, partying and just a general ability to enjoy life as it comes. The Times of Our Lives (Collection), while being labeled as such, is more than just a collection of songs. These aren’t re-hashed ideas that have been done by the group time and time again. There are no “updated versions,” this is 21 tracks of the best they have to offer and a glimpse of what they’re capable of, both as a band and as songwriters. There are a lot of risks being taken on this album, in terms of blending of styles. For example, one of the most prominent of these is the hip-hop beat that leads into the more heavy, driven and emotional track that is “Forever,” which features elements of EDM and explores a more eclectic style to their sound.
It’s not hard to see why “Everything” reached #1. Beginning with a beautiful, acoustic arrangement, this track has an incredible build-up and “feel-good” vibe to it. There are a few pace changes that really keep the listener guessing and the underlying keyboards in the chorus really give it an eerie feel, despite the positive nature of the track. There are also some group chanted parts on this track that give it a pop-punk feel, at times. I believe what really elevated this track to where it is, though, is that there is a heavy relation to the lyrics to many who will hear it. Coupled with a killer bridge, an explosive solo and an amazing break into the final chorus… this is a recipe for success if I’ve ever heard one.
“Superhero” is another track that really stands out to me. It reminds me heavily of Smashmouth, in how catchy and bouncy it is. The difference is that there are a lot of sample beats, coupled with drum beats that sound like “claps” and lend to the amusement. This track speaks on the importance of having someone to look up to, famous or not and how faith in those individuals can help build your character. I hear this track being put on a video game, or promoted in some sort of sports event/advertisement… it just has the type of message that people can cling to.
The album ends with a series of acoustic versions of tracks, each lending to the artistry of the group. “As the Sun Goes Down,” though is probably the best “album” closer I’ve heard from them so far. It starts off soft, subtle and continues to build and get heavier toward the end. The transition from acoustic to electric guitar is flawlessly executed and lends to how much the track soars. Just as quickly as it explodes, it levels out and ends with a beat that is reminiscent of some of the later 00s rock bands, once electronics and experimentation really began to take shape.
What makes this band so impressive, excluding their stats, is that they refuse to play by the books. You can truly tell that each and every song comes from the heart and is crafted, not to fit a mold, but to create a sound that they want to create. There are no extra hands in the pot, this is two guys who truly love what they do, pushing themselves past the limits of their creativity and challenging themselves to be better, stronger musicians with each note they write.
The Times of Our Lives (Collection) is a true testament to what great songwriting and transparency in your lyrics can do for a band. It doesn’t follow trends, it doesn’t play by the books but it does a great job conveying the pride that they have in their craft. Having written everything they’ve ever released, by themselves, they know their worth and remain humble to the end. This album offers something for any facet of the rock genre but looks over different horizons, with a refusal to stick to one label. If you’re still sleeping on Black Oxygen, do yourselves a favor and check out the album below. As an added bonus, I’ve included their latest single with Tech N9ne and David’s video explanation of the lyrics on The Times of Our Lives (Collection). Pick up a copy, out now via Sony Orchard/Curtain Call Records, by clicking the links below. Updated 12/14 @ 1:38pm – a deluxe edition entitled The Times of Our Lives (Deluxe Edition) was recently released. It features 27 tracks with guest features from Tech N9ne, Shifty Shellshock of CrazyTown, Kstylis, Kutt Kalhoun, Young Miller, T.R.O.Y. & Nave Monjo! Additionally, acoustic renditions of some of the most popular tracks from the collection have been included.
“The Time of Our Lives (Collection)” Album is available in all online stores and streaming services worldwide!
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Black Oxygen (David Lyle and Nick Lyle) is based in Los Angeles, California.