Okay so it’s time for my first ever album review so everyone strap in because it’s going to be Kubrick-esque in it’s originality and style. Only joking although I will almost certainly spill bias ebullient praise on this album as, and most of you will already know this, I am a huge fan of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson.
Owl John for those who aren’t aware is Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson’s side-project. The self-titled album was released on the 4th of August (I would have been more prompt but Budapest has lousy wifi) and was the product of a needed creative output after extensive touring and recording. The clear need for creative output is evident in that it was only recorded in 2 weeks. I don’t know about anyone else but in 2 weeks I achieve slightly less.
As expected the album is no confident stride through 60s indie pop but a melancholic exploration for those of us who find black moods more of a permanent climate than passing cloud cover and it radiates with Hutchinson’s usual wit and subterfuge. “Cold Creeps” opens the album with subdued pianos and messy feedback guitars with Scott crooning over the top in his melancholic brogue “Cold creeps through my fingertips like the frost in the night” before building in a rousing progression.
Their are the more bombastic songs that we associate with Frabbit’s measured aggression in “Hate Music” and “Red Hand” but it’s in the details that “Owl John” really sets itself apart. “Songs About Roses” exemplifies Hutchinson’s perspective on current music and the false charade performed by our musical heroes. Lyrics such as “Chloroform the singer who has nothing to say and stare in wonder as the masses sing along anyway,” really ram home that their is a commodifying of false connections within the music industry which has been alluded to in many of Hutchinson’s interviews (if I ever interview the man I’ll buy every reader of this blog a beer.) The standout track though closes off the album in “Stupid Boy.” Stupid Boy resounds with crackling drums and melancholic piano as Hutchinson laments “How can I be such a stupid boy?”
Overrall the album is a worthy inductee into the great side albums and elevates Hucthinson’s musical canon much like “The Postal Service” did for Ben Gibbard or “Broken Bells” for James Mercer. It doesn’t depart dramatically from the music that made his name but Owl John develops a frustrated poet and places him amid an unfolding landscapes of otherworldly slide guitar and distorted vocals offering a more personal landscape in which to carve our melancholy.
The album is out now on Atlantic and is available to buy directly from the website.