Feeling Grounded in ODESZA’s ‘The Last Goodbye’

On July 25, 2022
Photo by Alexander Babarikin

Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is ODESZA’s The Last Goodbye, the electronic duo’s first album in five years.

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ODESZA’s third studio album in 2017, A Moment Apart, seemed to be a seminal work for the duo, setting the groundwork — and a high bar — for future releases. It was by far their most grand work to date, with textures layered across every beat and note with a live show equally as massive to reinforce their vision. But five years — including the distorted time of the pandemic — and a side project elicited something even bigger than the concept of a cosmonaut trapped in space and learning to fall in love with an unending ticking noise to save his sanity. 

While Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight’s previous album floats in the stratosphere with its otherworldly themes and sounds, the songs on The Last Goodbye are tethered more closely to earth, finding refuge in being grounded by the people closest to us. In a press release, the pair noted, “We became focused and inspired by the impact our families and friends have imprinted on us, and how we want to continue to echo that out as we move through this life. We found comfort in the fact that those who we love stay with us, that they become intrinsically part of us, in a way.” 

On the opening song, “This Version Of You,” the chatter, sampled from home videos (which appears across The Last Goodbye), lends way to the chilling spoken words, swelling piano and strings, setting the conceptual pieces of the album and relaying the incoming lyrical themes of love and relationships. It parallels closely to “Intro” from A Moment Apart, even drawing similar cinematic qualities, which ultimately string together the album. 

In songs like the singles “Wide Awake” and “Love Letter,” despite the music appearing more palatable to mainstream tastes by taking on higher tempos for a club-ready mood, ODESZA illustrates their affinity for powerful percussion and variance in oscillating synths. Perhaps most notably, the percussion shines in the song “Behind The Sun,” which samples vocals from the song “Seeb” by Simin Ghanem, originally released in 1977. “Behind The Sun” quietly builds from pulsing synths into the vocal samples before bringing in the drum line as the focal point, reminiscent of their live shows. 

Mills and Knight further revisit the past in the titular “The Last Goodbye,” which sees a reimagining of Bettye LaVette’s 1965 “Let Me Down Easy.” While LaVette’s soulful vocals drive the tone, the glittery synths and fluctuating notes find ODESZA fully flexing their progression and potential to take on darker, robust sounds. While the pair primarily gained recognition in producing music that leans heavily into the realm of full strings, varied beats and airy elements, “The Last Goodbye” finds them in a more minimalistic setting in some parts, while subtly folding in deeper textures in others. 

As the album approaches its later half, the music takes a slower tempo, simmering in ambient atmospheres and revisiting the more traditional elements ODESZA has become known for before drifting into the closing track “Light Of Day,” which ends the album in an uplifting tone with its twinkling piano notes, a clear contribution from Ólafur Arnalds, and plucky synths. 

The Last Goodbye flourishes through ODESZA’s maturing sound and lyrics that relate more closely to the everyday person. The moods shift from sultry to optimistic, a delicate balancing act that seems to be effortless in the hands of the two. The tracklist touts an ability to capture the same essence of club environments and danceable tunes without ever sacrificing the richer layers of ethereal sounds for more intimate moments.

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Jillian Nguyen

Jillian's origin story began with jam sessions to early 2000s Eurodance tunes, resulting in her current self-proclamations as an EDM aficionado. Jillian has followed her favorite artists to over 15 music festivals and countless concerts.

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