From the opening moments of their latest full-length, New Jersey’s Owel produce of a warming, admirable, sense of grandeur as ‘dear me’ sweetly moulds tender pop-rock hooks with sweeping post-rock and intimate, emotional lyrics. Things start of brightly enough with ‘Slow’ as the quintet quickly put in the ground work to what they’re all about. Harmonious orchestration compliment Jay Sakong’s light vocals as his words wrap around the majestic instrumentation on offer.
‘Pale Soft Light’ delicately keeps things ticking along with twinkling keys. ‘Too Young To Fall in Love’ brings a dark shade to Owel’s heavenly sound through simple electro drums, ringing guitars and lyrical yearning.
Owel’s biggest strength is their ability to build songs that leave you on edge; ‘Be Quiet’ tenderly builds towards a giant crescendo that is hugely satisfying. Likewise ‘Paper Hands’ is dizzying and harmonious and sees Sakong intricately take center stage once again. ‘Steal the Moon’ is reminiscent of Sigur Rós’ sparkling moments with soothing vocals and light keys joining atmospheric strings. It is Owel at their most beautiful.
For all it’s pleasantness, however, ‘dear me’ does occasionally outstay its welcome. ‘I Am Not Yours’ brilliantly builds itself up with intimacy and stirring indie rock guitars, yet the expansive use of strings takes it a step too far, while ‘Annabel’ lasts twice as long as it should.
‘Not Today’ softly uses synths and electronic drums to its advantage, allowing the band to momentarily break away from grandoise instrumentation that dominates the record. Nevertheless, ‘Places’ offers one of the album’s ambitious moments blending compelling orchestration with warm vocals, stirring guitars and upbeat drums. It’s a late, compelling highlight.
Introspective and occasionally cathartic, Owel take you on an elaborate and bold journey on ‘dear me’ with effective results. They’re a band who seem comfortable in their skin; their grandeur is far from egotistical and every song is treated with care. With a little patience, Owel have the potential to win over many admirers.
‘dear me’ by Owel is out now on Equal Vision Records.
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Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)