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