Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Breathe Owl Breathe lead singer Micah Middaugh led an interesting boast in one of the Michigan three-piece's newest songs, "Birdz," -- a song that has yet to appear on an official album -- repeating about an abundance of feathered friends in singing, "There's more birds in my backyard than yours/So, I'll make it through the winter/Drop the needle on the vinyl and it crackles/Throw another log on the fire and it chhhhchshhhchhhhchhhh/I guess they got a lot in common/Come on, they could go together/Still, I wonder which keeps me warmer."
The indecipherable bit of letters in the middle of the bridge is a mimicking of the sounds made when an actual log is tossed into an already happening fire, sounding about right, sounding like a lobster screaming for its life in boiling water. These innumerable birds that he claims as his yard's own are important to he and his bandmates, Andrea Moreno-Beals and drummer Trevor Hobbs, who seem to borrow from their workings much of Breathe Owl Breathe's grace. They and their music tend to encompass this ease and the hover-ability, as well as a sort of nesting quality that could include the gathering, positioning and weaving of stray bits of straw and grasses into a living environment that provides both warmth and safety for a family.
Their songs are covered in the kind of dirt that's the clean kind of dirt, the kind that - if it's caking your hands and nails after a long afternoon of weeding the garden - you wouldn't rinse off before twisting a ripe, red strawberry from the creeping vines and popping it into your mouth. You know where that soil's been and how it got onto your hands in the first place and you're okay with it touching your food. It's the same with these just-born songs, which feel as if they've been organically grown, harvested and offered out to us with hands slightly blackened or browned from working with the earth. They carry the tendencies of such a natural feel and an under-the-sun mood that makes them seem like they are ready to eat, ready to handle. There are coos, the kinds of sounds we'd associate with owls - fittingly enough, and there are breaths that are turned into other outbursts that we'd be perfectly alright hearing out in the woods, surrounded by nothing but a darkness filled with all kinds of sounds whose origins are mysteriously concealed.
Middaugh and Moreno-Beals spin splendidly together, yoking these achingly beautiful attitudes about the countryside dealing with the corruption of the ever-encroaching urban expansion, as well as a sense that there's something wearisome about all of the thinking about it to soft-sung words of prettiness. Middaugh sings, "She turns to me on the drive and says, "This city is alive," and he means the sighs and the groans that are heard. These are the signs of escape that seem obvious and they sound like still-life, holding its pose for us to gander at, for Breathe Owl Breathe to paint us through.
*Essay originally published April, 2010
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