Owl John – Owl John

Owl JohnOwl John | Owl John
4 August 2014
Atlantic Records

By: Meghan Kearney

What is one to expect from the surprising exit of Frightened Rabbit’s beloved frontman Scott Hutchison from his steadfast homeland of Scotland? The awkwardly charming Scotsman, recent Los Angeles transplant, may have flown the coop, but his passion for putting his life to paper and tune remains.  So what do we find? A nervous introduction to a life anew? An innocent prayer for acceptance into the star-struck, hustle and bustle of the Hollywood Hills? A love letter to a woman drawing him 6,000 miles across the globe? What is most certainly apparent on this debut self-titled solo record (though I must give credit to the collaboration with the Frabbit’s Andy & touring stronghold Simon) is an honest, maybe too-telling narrative of an uncertain, but strangely grounded journey through a new state of being, Owl John.

As Scott goes, the passion hasn’t changed. The raw emotion which has drawn many an ear to every note from The Greys to Pedestrian Verse is here with Owl John. The record opens with “Cold Creeps.” An expansively produced, warming track, which breathes the feels of confident exploration in its sounds, yet marks self-doubt with its words. As Scott has always been quite honest in his lyrics, one may wonder if a chorus of “cold creeps in the silent attack, Oh I know you’ll be back, I know you’ll be back.” is a sullen self-reflection of doubt for a complete upturn of one’s life. There is a clear distinction in sound from the pop-folk sort of feel you’d expect of a Frightened Rabbit record, with the brogue-laden comforts of Scott’s vocals.
“Two” is another uncertain beauty. “We have nothing to show, no chapter or verse,” again seems to showcase a monumental introspection on the past, before our narrative finally seems settled on “Los Angeles Be Kind.” Here we can’t help but fully embrace Scott’s undisguised honesty. Sounds here are familiar, distortion backs the track, and the similarities to what we know of Frightened Rabbit seem perfectly juxtaposed to  define a new love affair. “Oh, Los Angeles Be Kind. No more trouble or red lights. I can learn to love you in good time.” We still wonder what truly brought him here. “I read you all wrong, so I get drunk just to feel I belong. By a river so dry it’s barely a river at all. And we suck one another at night, fire pistols and cover our eyes. And we waltz and sing behind Hollywood’s ballroom doors.”

What most solidly signifies not only this record as a true departure, or new chapter in Scott’s music, but seems to define the fairytale of his entire new existence is found on “A Good Reason to Grow Old.”  A girl. Scott has sung about many a girl before. Saying goodbye to memories in a padlocked room. Swimming away with stones to his back. But this, this track seems to be the very first deeply assured ray of sunshine for such a somber artist. A quite beautiful, piano heavy track, it is easy to empathize the portrayal of certainty that one convinced themselves might never be possible. “With my head in my hands I resolved to die alone. Now I’ve finally found good reason to grow old. I was ready to drown in the afterlife. Not anymore.” If you can dig your way through the thick accent, you’ll find some of the most hopeful lyrics Scott, or…Owl John, has ever graced us with.

This record is one of beauty. It’s Frightened Rabbit without the devastation. It’s everything there is to love of Scott Hutchison packaged into another, braver, window to his new life.

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