Q: WTF is Liminal Hiss? A: The seductive noise that oozes into the permeable spaces we dwell in or pass through, threatening to drown out all other stimuli. Without any ability to discern reality, our eyes dart between dreams, schemes, and screens. Or something like that. On the third album from Onesie, the Brooklyn-based power pop group led by guitarist/singer/songwriter Ben Haberland, the band channel doom scroll induced anxiety into their most ambitious effort yet- a dense “all singles” collection packed with pop culture references, texturally rich guitars, and a defiant bounce that is more party time than end times.
Basic tracks were recorded over a productive winter weekend in 2022 at Katonah Sound, the basement studio run by power pop authority Pete Donelly (The Figgs). Haberland, a new dad, returned home to Brooklyn to overdub and mix with BK producer and fellow new dad Gary Atturio in dribs and drabs over the Summer. From the Kinks stomp of opener “Perma Spring” (first line: “Waiting for Satan to play his hand”) the band galvanize their staple influences – 60’s psych pop, 70’s power pop, and 90’s slacker rock, into a sprawling, hooky, surreally comedic culture critique that recalls the spirit of populist brit pop era classics like Blur’s “Parklife”, Pulp’s “Different Class”, and Suede’s “Coming Up”.
More than ever, Haberland’s vocals are bright and up front in the mix, while Lori Bingle adds the secret sauce on second guitar- a sweet chime here and haunting ambience there. The dark, primal post punk of album highlight “What You Kill” is uncharacteristically direct. A sugary, XTC-like chorus helps the bad news go down smoothly; “There’s no you-shaped void to fill. You eat only what you kill”. The uptempo “Anemone In Lemonade” unleashes a swirling, layered, kaleidoscope of chords until the band pauses for what seems like a punchline: “orchestration or castration”. Against a caffeinated new wave beat, “Rat Island” strands its protagonist on NYC’s only privately owned island to confront their own self-imposed emotional exile.
Fresh sounds crop up in imaginative ways, the result of lockdown experimentation and going for an intimate, “fucked up basement” vibe. Sparkling twelve strings adorn late album highlight “Let Me Guess”, a driving Wilburys-style anthem with a chorus hook sung by Bingle, inspired by stumbling upon a stranger’s peak pandemic suicide attempt along the East River. The cruising Pixies/Billy Joel/Sabbath mashup “Cross The Night” and epic closer “Live Yuppie Scum” allow the band to languish in space, wax philosophical, and smear the sonic canvas with toy pianos and tempo drops.
As a genre bending catch-all project for timeless, obtuse guitar pop in the tradition of Rundgren, Malkmus, or Pollard, Onesie remains difficult to categorize. But, for those looking for a turbocharged testament to substance in an increasingly vapid musical landscape, here comes your band.