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Daughters and Suns

The Owls

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The Owls' first full-length album is a giant step beyond their debut EP, Our Hopes and Dreams. While it was a pleasant, charming record, Daughters and Suns is a much more fully realized and successful artistic statement. The arrangements are lusher, the sound is crisp and polished without being glossy, the songs more involving, and the performances pack more of an emotional punch. It takes the Owls out of the world of workaday indie pop and into a more sophisticated world of bands like Camera Obscura, Young and Sexy, and Belle & Sebastian who add a large helping of drama and soul to their sound. Also helping the album reach near-greatness is the fact that the Owls are a rare band gifted with three very talented songwriters who are also three wonderful singers, each perfectly suited for the kind of melancholy, intimate setting the songs create. When they blend together in different formations, it can raise goose bumps and warm hearts. Allison LaBonne's more dramatic vocals and wordier songs are quite captivating, but also quite moody. Her mid-album two-fer of the "Day in the Life"-quoting "The Lucky Ones" and "Apocalypse" is like dark clouds that blot out the sun (in a good way, giving the record some real depth), and her startlingly lovely "The Way On" starts the album with the kind of song that'll you want to build a playlist around. Maria May's songs are simpler than LaBonne's, more likely to reference pop culture ("Peppermint Patty," "Isaac Bashevis Singer") and blessed with candy-sweet melodies you'll find yourself humming an hour later. Brian Tighe's songs are the most rock-based, influenced by Beatle-y power pop ("All Those in Favor," with its rollicking piano and lightly skipping vocal lines; the gently rocking "Channel") and McCartney-styled ballads, but they are just as nuanced and gentle as his bandmate's efforts. Only the song written and sung by former drummer Stephen Ittner ("Airplane") sounds out of place, but due to the circumstances, it isn't a real surprise. The group harmonies make it a worthwhile diversion anyway. Daughters and Suns is a real coming-out party for the Owls; the record could steal some hearts of indie pop fans who aren't afraid to act like grownups, and could even sneak away fans of "real" singer/songwriters like Aimee Mann or Feist if only they have the chance to hear it.

Daughters and Suns, The Owls
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