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Find Purpose in the Wandering with Oceanography’s ‘Thirteen Songs About Driving Nowhere in Alphabetical Order’

By Cynthia Gross

Oakland, California-based artist Oceanography’s latest album, Thirteen Songs About Driving Nowhere in Alphabetical Order, is an impressive collection that unites spaces of tension. It’s equally heartbreaking and uplifting, familiar and otherworldly, and epic and minimalist. The project reminds audiences that you don’t always have to know what you’re looking for in order to find it.

“Monterey,” the album’s opening track is especially noteworthy. Brian Kelly, the namesake behind Oceanography, explains that like the rest of the album, the song was inspired by a difficult period of caring for his sister, who passed away after a long battle with a terminal illness.

“I lost my big sister to cancer in November of 2020,” Kelly shares. “Watching someone you love deteriorate is a horrible thing. We all have to do it sooner or later. In most cases, it’s messy, emotionally and physically, especially when family dynamics are involved. Somewhere inside those boundaries is where the meaning behind this song lies.”

The aching melancholy of the song is captured in the instrumentation, which features plaintive piano, atmospheric pads, and a steady drum beat that juxtaposes with the other mellow elements, almost as if the only constant driving force in the midst of lethargy.

“Two months too soon / Two much too late / It’s set in motion either way,” Kelly sings before transitioning to the unforgettable chorus. “It’s not your fault / It’s not your fault/ We are prone to accidents / close to home.”

Fans of The War on Drugs, My Morning Jacket, and Angus Stone will identify with Oceanography’s pop rock sound. The ten-track album is a perfect companion for a long solitary road trip. Kelly’s compositions are both grand and nuanced, allowing his distinct vocals and poetic lyrics to stand front and center.

Somehow, despite the album’s difficult subject matter, listeners leave full of wonder and hope. Oceanography’s music is nothing short of cathartic. It inspires listeners to find clarity in the chaos and purpose in the wandering. Thirteen Songs About Driving Nowhere in Alphabetical Order is an album that invites many return visits.

“These songs are about navigating the chaos and uncertainty that life can throw at you,” Kelly notes. “How we deal with loss defines who we are, and that’s something I learned from my sister — she lost so much, and her ability to remain positive to the very end was remarkable. Maybe this record can, in some small way, help others find comfort in that part of life.”

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Cynthia Gross

Maryland-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and more than a decade of experience as a professional ghostwriter, she is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.

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