Yoko Ono–– woman, musician, peacemaker, activist, icon––is a name that’s become a mutable signifier in counterculture speak. But Yoko’s name remains wholeheartedly her own, as does her genre-defying musical oeuvre. She has always handled her lyrical pen with sophistication, purpose, and intensity. Her output orbits everything from the avant-garde to bubble-gum pop, and often across the cosmos of a single album. 

Scapegoaters gorge themselves on the indulgent opinion that Yoko Ono, the widowed Mrs. Lennon, is the ruminating and nefarious hanger-on who stifled her companion’s achievements and broke up The Beatles. And while John’s belief that Yoko was his other half (and admittedly could not go long without her in his immediate vicinity), the multifaceted Ono may never fully escape her reputation as boyband homewrecker.

Yoko Ono, courtesy NBC News

Benjamin Gibbard, lead guitar and vocalist of Death Cab for Cutie, lampoons this negative connotation associated with Yoko. “As an advocate” he claims, “the tallest hurdle to clear has always been the public’s ignorance as to the breadth of Yoko’s work.” From this place of frustration and love, Gibbard curated a tribute project to his musical idol, a compilation album titled Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono. The album was unveiled by Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records on Yoko’s birthday this year, February 18th. Buy or stream it here

A cast of fourteen musical acts came together under Gibbons’ curatorial acumen to create Ocean Child. Among them are David Byrne, The Flaming Lips, Deerhoof, Stephin Merritt (of Magnetic Fields), Yo La Tengo, and Japanese Breakfast who just celebrated its Grammy nomination for 2022 Best New Artist. The album also features new performances from Sharon Van Etten, Sudan Archives, Thao, U.S. Girls, Jay Som, We Are KING, Amber Coffman, and of course Gibbon’s own Death Cab for Cutie. This eclectic group of musicians hail from every corner of the contemporary music sphere, coming together as long-time devotees of a common deity: Yoko. 

Ocean Child opens with an aqueous rendition of “Toyboat” from indie folk artist Sharon Van Etten. Etten’s contralto delivery calls out to first-time listeners like a siren, begging them to keep listening, and pulling them softly into an album they won’t be able to pause. And once you’re roped in, David Byrne seals Ocean Child’s enchanting spell with crown jewel “Who Has Seen the Wind?” which Yoko herself shared on Twitter in January to promote the album. Check out the music video below.

Watch “Who Has Seen The Wind?” music video on YouTube

After Sudan Archives brings you down the rabbit hole with a hauntinly-catchy rendition of “Dogtown,” Death Cab for Cutie takes the main stage with a joyful and inspired performance of “Waiting For the Sunshine.” This track plays like a glorious love song from Gibbons to Yoko, and you might not need that cup of coffee after it’s over.  With “Waiting For The Sunshine,” Death Cab channels their inner Beatles––but Yoko is undoubtedly at the heart of this one. Also on queue in Ocean Child’s afternoon tracks are “Mrs. Lennon,” delivered faithfully by The Flaming Lips, and a longingly beautiful, piano-backed “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” from Japanese Breakfast that winds you down into the album’s evening pages. 

Finally, Yo La Tengo delivers a convincing conclusion to a powerful album. “There’s No Goodbyes Between Us” is an orchestral wandering through psychedelic fields, and brings you out of your trance gently and with care. But despite this seemingly perfect ending, Ocean Child refuses to let you out that easily.  Amber Coffman offers “Run Run Run” as a defiant final word against ease, against comfort, and against closure. All her life Yoko has fought to change an unchanging world, and with its last track Ocean Child shies away from stagnancy and the contented.  Do something, it nudges us––Run Run Run.

Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono Tracklist:
1. Toyboat Sharon Van Etten
2. Who Has Seen The Wind? David Byrne, Yo La Tengo
3. Dogtown Sudan Archives
4. Waiting For The Sunrise Death Cab for Cutie
5. Yellow Girl (Stand For Life) Thao
6. Born In A Prison US Girls
7. Growing Pain Jay Som
8. Listen, The Snow Is Falling Stephin Merritt (of Magnetic Fields)
9. No No No Deerhoof
10. Don’t Be Scared We Are KING
11. Mrs. Lennon The Flaming Lips
12. Nobody Sees Me Like You Do Japanese Breakfast
13. There Is No Goodbye Between Us Yo La Tengo
14. Run Run Run Amber Coffman 

Yoko Ono at the NME Music Awards 2016, courtesy ABC News

In every sense of the word, Yoko Ono is a changemaker. In that vein, a portion of the proceeds from Ocean Child will go to WhyHunger, a nonprofit organization that Yoko has supported for decades in their efforts to fight food insecurity around the world. WhyHunger was founded in 1975 by the late Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Aryes, and continues its good work under the unwavering belief that a world without hunger is possible. Learn more about WhyHunger on their website, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Listen to Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono on Spotify now! You can also check out the accompanying podcast on Apple Podcasts, where Benjamin Gibbons and journalist Jenny Eliscu interview the album’s featured artists and discuss its tracks!


Carlie Houser Author
Sorry! The Author has not filled his profile.
Carlie Houser Author
Sorry! The Author has not filled his profile.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.