Owl John

Owl John

Written by: HES on 01/09/2014 20:36:01

Owl John is the solo-project of Frightened Rabbit's vocalist Scott Hutchison. It's not Huchison's first break-away from the band, but it is the first since the band's massive major-label success "Pedestrian Verse". Whereas "Pedestrian Verse" and Frightened Rabbit's sound is introspective, raw but with soaring choruses and guitarwork, Owl John is mainly just introspective - including classical emotional traits like self-questioning and self-loathing. There are very seldomly any glimmer of positivity to find on "Owl John". It's impossible not to think of Frightened Rabbit when listening to Huchison's voice, but Owl John's sound is way less contrasted, filled with long periods of static sound, elongated mood fillers and overly-echoed, down-mixed vocals. It's funny to think, but actually the lyrical universe of Frightened Rabbit and Owl John don't differ too much; Huchison is probably one of the most interesting lyricists rock can offer, but whereas the lyrics were added post-composition in Frightened Rabbit, the lyrics of Owl John seem to shape the compositions instead.

"Hate Music" differs by bringing a bit of the grandeur from Frightened Rabbit - but the grandeur is in no way uplifting with lyrics of Huchison's own beheading "Words can't save my neck, the axe has been reddened" being massed over a dark soundscape driven by distorted guitar, yelling choirs and percussion-like clapping. "Don't take Off Your Gloves" also makes use of clapping and yelling. Instead of full drum skin sounds, the rhythm section is made up of drumsticks clapped together. "Stupid Boy" is more positively composed with more major than minor and as the last track of the album it almost sets a "light at the end of the tunnel" with lyrics like "How can I? Come to be such a stupid boy? How can I? I may be what you're looking for". And even though these lyrics still seem sombre, it is the closest we get to light at the end of any tunnel in the lightless universe of Owl John, as he kills off the shine of Pedestrian Verse in the lines of "Songs About Roses": "Bulldoze the pedestrian blues and the baize and those only right to get blown and get paid".

Los Angeles is rumoured as a city that’s a hard place to fit in, and Huchison joins the club of its disillusioned musicians - like Death Cab For Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard, whose solo-album also lyrically circled the feelings of rootlessness and emotional discomfort of being out of place - on Owl John's "Los Angeles Be Kind", with lyrics telling a way more unpolished and honest tale of the city than other artist's describing this feeling by opening line "You exhaust me you know". And if it is not obvious already, it is this lyrical honesty that truly carries Owl John a lot of the way. The album is disparate to put it mildly and whereas Frightened Rabbit always delivered a musical universe, Owl John in comparison is more musically confused. But this may end up being the album's forté as the musical confusion only adds to the disparate feeling.

Download: Hate Music, Cold Creeps, Don't Take Off The Gloves, Stupid Boy
For The Fans Of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Frightened Rabbit, Augustines
Listen: Owl John is using Frightened Rabbit's facebook

Release date 04.08.2014
Atlantic Records

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