Back to the Ocean - Redefining 'Indie' Music

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Back to the Ocean is one of the more peculiar groups I’ve touched on in the Independent Spotlight as of late.  The Warsaw-based group is fronted by Agnieszka Olszewska, a compellingly talented vocalist and performer. The three instrumentalists backing her accentuate her wonderfully, providing a consistently intriguing offering of independent music that’s quite unlike anything else I’ve heard in the scene in awhile.

Back to the Ocean debuted five years ago as the musical child of Olszewska. Since then, her work has been acclaimed internationally, winding up in massive songwriting competitions and festivals. More so, Back to the Ocean has enjoyed some very extensive radio play, especially in Poland, and the group has toured all around the country. They’ve even made some notable appearances on this side of the pond in Nashville. Defining themselves as singer songwriter and smooth rock, Back to the Ocean has created a space in which they’ve very accessible to audiences worldwide.

‘Rain’ is the defining highlight of Olszewska’s repertoire. This acoustic piece feels so authentic and heartfelt, embracing a level of uniqueness often lost in acoustic indie productions. Olszewska’s presence is masterful, harnessing that emotion with a beautifully tactful voice. She reminds me a bit of Laurie Anderson, at least, in her delivery. She isn’t ostentatious or self-indulgent. Her vocals elegantly blend with the composition in perfect harmony. Some performers can’t find that kind of harmony.

‘Rain’ isn’t fully representative of Back to the Ocean’s sound, however, which is made clear when you delve into a tune like ‘OMG.’ That song loses the soft, meandering atmospheres of ‘Rain’ for a gritty rock sound. I’d actually argue Olszewska emerges as a very punky figure in tracks like ‘OMG.’ I aligned her with Laurie Anderson on ‘Rain.’ On ‘OMG,’ I’d probably align her with Patti Smith. She’s a defiant frontwoman with passion and gusto.

The soulful ‘Green Eyes’ continues Back to the Ocean’s genre hopping. ‘Green Eyes’ pulls influence from pop, soft rock, and even R&B. It really surprised me, honestly, since ‘Rain’ and ‘OMG’ were already dramatic departures from one another. ‘Green Eyes’ extends that trend to a shocking degree. I think that’s why Back to the Ocean is so likable on an international level: these are great songs that transcend any niche. Good music is good music and everyone can get behind that.

I love Back to the Ocean and adore Olszewska’s presence and delivery. The group deserves all the praise that’s been sent their way the past five years, and I suspect a good deal more is on the way. It’ll be intriguing to see how they evolve since they’re already covering so much sonic ground. That’s a strong indication of a group with immense longevity.