ON AN ON began recording its debut album, Give In, just three weeks after its members’ previous band Scattered Trees broke up in 2012. But the Chicago/Minneapolis trio comprised of Nate Eiesland, Ryne Estwing and Alissa Ricci only really began writing as a fully formed trio in the past two years prepping for sophomore release And the Wave Has Two Sides.
While the coherence seems apparent in studio post-production (the work of Joe Chiccarelli at Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles), ON AN ON ends up sounding like a mellow Passion Pit on And the Wave Has Two Sides. With instrumentation only comprising vocals, guitars, keyboards, and bass, the trio falls into a habit of copying its own song structure. From “Icon Love” (the true opening track after the monotone, intro-seeming “Behind the Gun”) to single “Drifting,” the band follows a slow guitar build that crescendos into timid synthesizer explorations and fidgety drum programs before tapering off into a sustained fade-out ending.
And lyrically, ON AN ON tells moody stories of loss and loneliness, without actually conveying very much emotion. In “It’s Not Over,” they repeat, “I’m dying to get you on the dance floor / to tell you it’s not over.” What’s sadder than the direct narrative so clearly articulated is the implication that the protagonist can’t even get his lover on to the dance floor to tell her how he feels. Unfortunately, those same feelings of hope and disappointment are pretty constant themes throughout the record.