Oliver Tree is one of those artists it’s hard to define. Whilst there are some who insist that he is nothing more than an internet meme, his artistry is undeniable and there’s something instantly captivating about him. Having released a heap of singles since signing to Atlantic Records in 2017, it’s only now, in 2020, we’re seeing the release of his debut album, Ugly Is Beautiful. Here’s what we have to say about it…
Ugly Is Beautiful is the first full-length release from Oliver Tree, who announced his early retirement in March 2020 – only to return in May with the announcement of his debut record, after a hacker held Oliver hostage in exchange for 1 million Instagram likes (which he logged in under 24 hours).
Having already been delayed twice (once due to Covid-19 and once due to the George Floyd and anti-racism protests), this highly-anticipated debut album proves to be worth the wait. Whilst his appearance, to some, is outlandish, this internet personality, musician and filmmaker has made a genre-defying record if ever there was one. Right from the off, Oliver Tree makes his way through a wide variety of genres, from alternative indie rock to hip hop and pop punk to electronic with a great sense of conviction that is nothing short of highly infectious.
One thing that is incredibly impressive about Tree, throughout the album, is his ability to ensure the listener doesn’t take any one moment too seriously or equally to pass it off as a joke either, using lyrical whit to guide the way. One such track is ‘Joke’s On You!’ where Tree makes his feelings known in the line, “Well yes in fact, my dignity’s intact, while I listen to ‘em laugh,” – here he is obviously making light of the fact that people often see him as a joke yet he’s made something of himself and maintained his dignity in doing so.
There is definitely a sense of nostalgia about Ugly Is Beautiful.
One of my favourite tracks has to be the distortion-heavy, electronic-laiden ‘1993’ (featuring Little Ricky ZR3), which was an instant favourite for me as it sort of epitomises much of the album. He uses tasteful electronic elements alongside intentional distortion giving it a real grungy, edgy feel – like much of the record. ‘Again & Again’ is another track that uses those gritty, distorted vocal effects but it equally has a certain radio-like quality to it, due to its indie-rock vibes.
There is definitely a sense of nostalgia throughout Ugly Is Beautiful too with tracks like ‘Jerk’ reminiscing of a down-tempo Nirvana song, ‘Bury Me Alive’ with its quick-fire delivery, like that of a Beastie Boys track or the David Bowie-esque qualities of ‘Miracle Man’.
However, the only time Tree feels truly familiar is on his previously-released singles, ‘Let Me Down’, ‘Alien Boy’ and ‘Hurt’, whilst the rest of the record feels new, exciting and refreshingly undefinable. This is a vision that is truly unique and entirely his – this is less an act and more of a glimour into the world of Tree, through his eyes.
Although Tree insists this is his “magnum opus” and that he is to retire from music and focus on film-making and producing instead, his label (Atlantic Records) say, “Ugly Is Beautiful is only the beginning. Stay tuned for more from Oliver Tree.” So I guess we will just have to wait and see! Either way, it would be a real shame if this were to be all we hear from him again.
‘Ugly Is Beautiful’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/ugly-is-beautiful/1514394064
Ugly Is Beautiful on Spotify
Hurt (Official Music Video)
Let Me Down (Official Music Video)
Bury Me Alive (Official Unofficial Music Video)
We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Oliver Tree’s debut album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.