With the sweet Australian voice of Hannah Botting, Owl & Mouse are treating us to another album. Gentle pop songs emerge from careful orchestrations on Departures, the band featuring an expanded cast of musicians. A great record for when you really need to bury your melancholy. Or for when you like pretty songs, of course.
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After Mates of State made their triumphant return to twee stardom this year with whatever that album they released was, I fear synths may once again become the currency of sickly-sweet indie pop. “Keep Your Eyes Open Wide” is early proof from Owl & Mouse, beginning their new record ‘Departures’ with a marriage of gloopy electronica and intentionally clumsy vocal overdubs. It sounds like a mix between the new Mammoth Penguins record and the opener to Modest Mouse’s ‘Stranger To Ourselves’; delicate, plaintive but strangely awkward. Don’t even worry about it, though: the ukes are coming.
It’s important to give credit to Owl & Mouse’s aesthetic; they price match their sparse twee melodies with bolstered arrangements, reminiscent of Andrew Bird (the violin flet-fricks of “Misfits” take on the simple ukulele chord sequence) or the National (see the piano additives of “Canvas Bags”). This isn’t a barebones record, and nor is it produced in the suppressive twee tradition where it sounds like Stuart Murdoch’s trying not to spill red wine on his new carpet -- instead Owl & Mouse ignore the acoustics around them in favour of getting their songs out.
These aren’t revolutionary songs, but Owl & Mouse aren’t twee traditionalists either, and that’s all we can really ask for in these trying times. Tunes like “Basic Economics” feel almost epic in this landscape, the organ synth blaring ominously around a subliminal beat that make the band feel like apocalyptic harbingers. A pleasant record nobody could possibly condemn.
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