You can blame it on a generation of Seuss-lovers who received Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as a graduation gift, or on John Dwyer, who was one of the first to employ it. Either way, there’s been a steady rise in the number of bands working an exclamatory “Oh” into their names. Maybe it comes from a need to spotlight things that are so bizarre (The Oh Wow) or so deeply dark (Oh the Humanity!) that no other name will do. Or maybe it’s because the word is so neutral it can mean everything and nothing all at once. There’s no unifying sound or style: “Oh” bands practice everything from baroque pop (The Oh Hellos) to German techno (the onomatopoeic TheOhOhOhs, whose name alone makes for a solid beat.)
To help you navigate through a forest of bands whose names alone are crying out for attention, we’ve put together a list of a few of the best Ohs on Bandcamp. Consider it all the ‘Ohs’ you need to know.
The name may sound like a gentle greeting, but San Marcos, Texas’ The Oh Hellos build their songs to wildly ecstatic peaks. The band’s gorgeous baroque pop shifts from melancholy to celebratory, thanks to the dozen or so musical collaborators who assist siblings Maggie and Tyler Health with hand claps, foot stomps, banjos, mandolins, and robust choral arrangements. The Oh Hellos’ folky anthems mix lyrical vulnerability with big-crowd gusto —they’re the sonic equivalent of a hearty bear hug.
There’s a dramatic confessional vibe to The Oh Wells, the Vancouver, BC indie pop act fronted by Sarah Jickling, who writes such diaristic lines as, “I’m learning how to get along with me.” Her song “Tightrope” lists off a litany of fears while “Is It Too Late to Apologize” is a #sorrynotsorry for girls who refuse to lose themselves in a crush’s fantasy of who they should be. The Oh Wells’ music is filled with self-affirmations for self-proclaimed awkward ones. The twist is that these navel-gazing nuggets get a confident sendoff through Jickling’s powerful pipes, kicky beats, and playful melodies.
The Oh Ones offer a his ‘n’ hers perspective on fear and loving. Their two singles, “John Lennon” and “My Tendencies,” pit a whiskeyed cowboy drawl against an aching female croon. The songwriters’ vocals combine to create a romantic Americana sound — albeit one with a cynical lyrical streak. The group’s ode to the Beatle claims Lennon “lied through his teeth” when he said “love is all you need.” “Come down here, John [in] a couple of years,” they sing, “I’m sure you’ll change your mind.” The Oh Ones could be the loneliest number, but that pain makes for some comforting country music.
With a sound this primal, you can imagine The Echo Ohs using old Flintstones dinosaur bones to pound out their ‘60s garage beats. But this trio hails from Auckland, not Bedrock. Their sonic references are surf, psychobilly, and the rockin’ Motor City minimalists of the early ‘00s, and they’re skilled at making a big, moody racket. Singer Yolanda Fagen’s possessed punk croon adds an eerie edge to the group’s cinematic sound, which would be the perfect accompaniment to b-movies and haunted lounges everywhere.
These self-proclaimed “Queens of the Underworld” heartily champion bad behavior with a dark sense of humor, whether they’re singing about beheading their beloved, eating a crush’s leftover trash, or worshipping Kim Gordon’s shoes with fatal relationship consequences. Malmo, Sweden’s defiantly devilish pop punks celebrate debauched behavior with loud guitars, snarling attitudes, and lurid vocals that rockin’ goths could love to death.
There’s a streak of ‘80s British pop in Oh Pep!’s electronic earworm “Doctor Doctor” — and it’s not just in the song title’s reference to the Thompson Twins’ track “Doctor! Doctor!” The Melbourne, Australia duo’s song exudes the synth warmth of another classic Me Generation act, T’Pau, a band that turned romantic yearning into a singalong activity. Oh Pep!’s singer Olivia Hally emotes with a refined elegance that make even her most self-deprecating lyrics sound like statements of power. Fun fact about Hally’s bandmate Pepita Emmerichs — she played Max’s older sister Claire in the Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are.