I love folk music an inordinate amount for someone who’s only 22. I have no explanation for how I came into this love so early, other than burning out of punk rock early on account of overexposure and a lack of connection with the rebellious sentiment.
Explanations aside, here I am, loving Breathe Owl Breathe‘s Magic Central. The whole album can be summed up in this glorious sentence: This is what the National would sound like if they were a mellow folk band. The vocalist has a similar baritone, although his is less husky and more smooth that Matt Berninger’s croon. They have a similar penchant for dusky, hyper-romantic moods, infectious yet understated melodies, and a sense of wonder. Breathe Owl Breathe just has keyboards, occasional acoustic guitar, stringed instruments, toy pianos and female vocals making the music.
There is little distortion or dissonance here; these songs float along calmly and beautifully. Single “Swimming” includes a playful feel, as the vocals mimic a brushed snare drum for a hook. “Dog Walkers of the New Age” actually uses a brushed snare for a propulsive feel; that is, as propulsive as a song carried by ethereal keyboards and single notes plucked on a guitar. A cello swoons in and out, for effect. The whole thing sounds like a warm blanket.
It is when Breathe Owl Breathe contents itself with sitting back in their chilled out folk grooves that they score the highest marks. “Dragon” is a funky, jazzy sort of number that is good, but barely hangs with the rest of the tunes in mood. The keyboards connect the isolated pieces and save it from being a herky-jerky anomaly. When they instead kick it wistfully on “Lake Light,” it feels simultaneously like the chillest M. Ward track of all time and like a quiet day on someone’s back porch. Those are both very good things, for the uninitiated.
“Across the Loch” is another highlight; the melody strikes quickly and remains lodged in the brain. It has a bit of a trip-hop influence; it’s just enough to make the song memorable without pushing it into a feel that doesn’t mesh with the majority of the album.
Magic Central is a chill, chill album. It is almost completely cohesive, rewarding those who listen to it in full sittings. The tunes are good by themselves, but when kept in context, my enjoyment built and built as I got progressively more calm and enjoyed the state that multiple Breathe Owl Breathe songs put me in. Highly recommended for fans of mellow folk that doesn’t necessarily need strummy guitars to be great.
Breathe Owl Breathe plays Opolis in Norman tomorrow. If their live show is anything like their albums, it will put you in a good humour. And who doesn’t want that? Go see it.