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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 178 - 03/19/11

Freak Owls
Taxidermy
Sing Engine Records

From out of nowhere I suddenly became aware of a band called Freak Owls. Well, out of nowhere, or somewhere in the US, came an e-mail from Sing Engine Records, presenting the band, with a link to a site with digital access. I had to check it out, and found the Freak Owls not to be some scary nocturnal birds.

In fact Taxidermy is a true pop album, and it's not as 'bad' as its title implies. This is not about mounting, or reproducing dead animals for display, which is totally old-fashioned and out-dated if you're asking me. Taxidermy is a negative thing. Taxidermy, on the other hand, is a positive thing for sure, and it's filled with positive, joyous sound and songs. Freak Owls are in fact one head 'owl' named Josh Ricchio, who put up this project just two years ago, after years of playing in a variety of bands (Pela, Ladycop, and The Symphony Case -- all unknown to me). Ricchio had plenty of ideas, and a desire to lock himself in and write. 'Catchiness incarnate' was his description. Claiming influences (according to the press sheet): "...from The Beach Boys, Nick Drake [here's a cover of "Place To Be" - I'll get back to that], Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, Death Cab For Cutie, ...with Gnarls Barkley-like danceable beats". Not bad for a teaser.

Opener "Little Things" (it reappears later on as an instrumental) is right on target, getting my attention right away. Yes, this is really, really something. Freak Owls is about catchiness, harmonies, playful instrumentations and arrangements. "A very personal and uplifting half hour of smiles and moist eyes, Freak Owls wants to warm the heart and chill the spine" the press sheet goes on. True words indeed. "Optimistic Automatic" pops off in a bubbly way, and "Paper People" is a true beauty. This is really charming pop music! Based in Brooklyn, NY, Freak Owls, or Josh Ricchio with rotating players (Taxidermy features Kolby Wade, Cody Geil, and Kerry Beach on a variety of sounds, voices and instruments) has brewed a nice mixture of poppy songs with glimpses of melancholy. Even though the album was released a year ago, it's so appealing that I include this rather late review of it.

Even though there are some weaker/simpler songs here as well, the album as a whole is so good and well done it deserves to be heard. Freak Owls do Nick Drake's "Place To Be" (from Pink Moon), and they do well. Doing cover versions of Nick Drake's songs is, well.. ...it takes stomach and self-confidence - and brains to get away with it. Which Ricchio and his Owls do. The album closes with the fine "Philadelphia", an acoustic song with a driving tambourine and sweet harmonies.

Taxidermy is quite good and definitely worth checking out. You won't be disappointed, especially if you're seeking some different pop music with an acoustic vibe, beautiful harmonies, and a dash of bittersweet gloom.

Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Freak Owls article/review: Orchestrates.

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