My CD copy of "Nowhere in Particular" by Sebastian Owl came in the mail today. This pretty much made my day as I pretty much had nothing in particular to do.
Although the importance of this delivery was heightened due to the fact that I had been out with a horrible case of bronchitis (doubtful there is ever a good case of it).
So if some good ole’ home-brewed tunes would be just what the holistic happenstance healers have for me today, I would be happy to indulge.
As I wait for my kettle to boil for my throat coat biologique tea, I prepare to immerse myself in the new sounds of Sebastian Owl.
The guitar tones of the first track, "Rotting Road", drift out of the speakers like waves of comfort washing over me.
This mellow opening number serves the lyrical content well as the song plays out like a question. The question acts as a table of contents to a book that has yet to be written. Indeed. Where do I go now? We’ve all been there. We’ve all asked ourselves that question and in this case, it’s such a perfect way to set the stage for what’s to come.
The first four tracks on the album are the most "folk" sounding of the bunch in my opinion.
The subtle feedback echo that rolls out from the first chord on the second track, "Alice", fluctuates between understated and meaningful, then blends nicely into a mandolin riff that sets a trippy tone for an upbeat tune about the gal who resides in the rabbit hole. This whimsical ditty rolls along with the help of a mid-tempo shuffle that creates a perfect backdrop for the yarn that’s wonderfully weaved.
"City Bird" is a simplistic folky piece consisting merely of an acoustic guitar, vocal and a wish. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be free as bird, this reflective composition is bound to put the listener in the composer’s shoes.
Track four, "Chasing Amy", steps up the tempo into more of a galloping shuffle and is another of the more folky sounding tracks on the disc. By the way, this track could be confused with the 1997 movie of the same name starring Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Kevin Smith and Joey Lauren Adams simply because it could easily fit on that movie’s soundtrack. Google it — you’ll see what I mean. This track also includes one of my favourite lyrics on the entire album: "It’s better to light a candle than curse the dark."
The Owl’s second full-length CD (they also have an EP in their discography) is a bold effort in many ways. This folk-rock combo has branched out into some new territory musically, putting the emphasis more on rock than folk on just the right number of tracks.
The more rock-oriented tunes start on the fifth track. The electric piano that kicks this one off shoots out of my speakers like funky bolts of lightning and sets a cool tone for this track titled "Between the River and the Bridge."
This hip, cool and free-spirited track is helped along by a funky groove, well placed sweet harmonies and some short, sharp and stinging guitar riffs. Then there’s that choice electric piano solo that puts it right over the top. Purchase this disc and I can almost guarantee you’ll want to go between the river and the bridge repeatedly, especially if you’re trying to find your soul in the bottom of a bottle of wine…
As I enter the midway point of the CD, the crisp ukulele riff at the onset of track six, "Medusa", keeps my attention with its sharp, direct and cutting conviction. This is the perfect way to launch into a track about a lost opportunity for love.
The next title is another fine example of how well the track list is weaved together on this CD. Track seven, "The Disease", kicks off with a straightforward bass riff (think an abbreviated version of The Animals" "We Got to Get Out of This Place") that provides the perfect backdrop for this track filled with what-if wild wanton wonderlust. Dig the funky bass lines in this one! I can’t help but think how the interplay of the bass and guitar could very well be that of the girl and her reluctant pursuer respectively.
"Pretty Poison", the rhythmically rocking track eighth track, is a barroom stomper propelled by a steadfast shuffle beat, with some tasty guitar licks blended in. We’re all let in on the outcome of this ditty about a chance meeting with a "devil girl," thanks to the stand-out line: "Poison tastes better than you think it would." It might taste even better if this song was the soundtrack for that story!
Track nine, "The Sweater", is yet another short story of a chance rendezvous. "One night is all it takes to make or break whatever we are dreaming about" — that about says it all in this capricious flight of fancy.
Tracks nine and 10 are another fine example of how this disc flows, such perfectly placed compositions. The words in the melancholy melody of "Nights Like These" paint a picture of a torn and forlorn former lover who beckons for the way things used to be. "I don’t wanna be stuck in this one horse town" will soon have the listener singing along. With "Nights Like These," the Owls have concocted the perfect melody for a barroom sing-along.
The closing track, "Song Called Maria", paints a poignant picture, one of many on this disc. The droning guitar helps punctuate not only the message in this song, which is "gotta get home to Maria" but the very concept and context of this album.
You see, I get the feeling and would be willing to bet that most of this album was written during several trips between Winnipeg and Brandon. Or quite possibly the songs were penned on the road out to various gigs or shall we say adventures?
With that logic, this CD could also be considered a travelling companion. So whether you’re out on the highway or in your living room fighting a nasty cold, "Nowhere in Particular" actually helps you get to where you need to be.
Frank McGwire is a radio personality and booster of the music scene in Brandon and Westman.