Those being introduced to Oliver Tree for the first time may all be asking the same question – what meme is this? But contrary to popular belief, Oliver Tree’s bowl cut and scooter obsession aren’t just facets of Instagram culture – they’re elements of one of the most anticipated album releases of the year, ‘Ugly is Beautiful.’ Trust me, I would know – my sister, a member of Gen Z (and significantly cooler than I am), alerted me of alllllll the drama around the album’s initial release delay.
Oliver Tree is to high schoolers of 2020 as Twenty One Pilots was to me at that age – a genre-bending, modern spin on pop punk that normalises feelings we’re often told to shove down. ‘Ugly is Beautiful’ is one hell of a rollercoaster that, while often accompanied by crazy antics, is actually packed with musicality. Dynamics aren’t a thing here – full blast is the only setting – but Oliver’s chaotic energy is equal parts insane as it is memorable. While at times bombastic, his music carries themes that are meaningful – it asks all the right existential questions, cloaked in melodies and f-bombs that touch on real themes of loneliness and anxiety.
There’s a variety of different influences at play here, which makes the album intriguing all the way through – ‘1993’ feels very 2012 electro-pop, while ‘Bury Me Alive’ feels like something straight out of the 90s. No two songs sound the same, but they’re all fueled by that same epic, crashing guitar that leaves you thrashing your head into the next track. It’s bold, badass, and a damn shame that he’s already dropped his next bomb: his early retirement away from music. Pray it’s just another scheme, because I’d love to see more from Oliver Tree.