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CD Shorts: Owls

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Two

(Polyvinyl)

Owls’ new effort, Two, starts with a loping, off-kilter drum part and buzzing, infectious guitar and bass. The feel is open and airy, yet the sounds are propulsive. The multi-voice vocals arrive in call-and-response fashion, high parts alternating with low. The tune, “Four Works of Art,” is a pleasing, hard-to-predict take on rock.

As the album progresses, things remain adventurous, if not perhaps with the same unusual fervor as the opening track. The guitars are grungy and melodic, emphasizing interplay, not soloing. Because of that ever-changing sophistication, Two is easy to get pulled into—it’s a restless effort, adventurous inside the parameters of indie rock. Rather than focus on the more common rock blueprint of guitar chords closely followed by straightforward bass, the musicians of Owls deploy layers of melody only occasionally punctuated by chords.

It’s worth noting that the well-rendered weaving of parts must come in part from the musicians’ long experience with each other—they formed a band in high school, two decades-plus ago, and are still collaborating. They are, on the other hand, open about the contentious relationships that spawned this (and earlier) recordings. If the music has a weak point, it’s that the high, rather light and almost pitchy vocal stylings don’t always seem to provide a counterpoint that’s equal to the big instrumental sounds. Look past that, and you’ll be rewarded with a sophisticated modern take on psychedelia and indie rock that grabs and holds your attention.

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