Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison's enjoying a little holiday – it's good for all of us.
Funny how side-projects get out of hand. Hutchison (or Owl John on his days off) made this album to get his head back in the creative zone before starting on the follow-up to Frightened Rabbit's moderate hit fourth album Pedestrian Verse, but far from being a warm-up, Owl John sounds like the real deal.
Perhaps lack of expectation and surfeit of freedom is the winning formula, because this sounds more expansive than his usual band's music, and they're no slouches. From the fuzzy guitars and floating falsetto vocals of Cold Creeps to the pumping organ and killer key change of the closing seconds of Red Hand, Owl John is an album that fizzes with ideas, taking the psych rock of The Phantom Band and the big melodies of Snow Patrol (at their most interesting!) as starting points and launching into the great beyond.
Hutchison's good with clanking campfire sing-songs like Don't Take Off The Gloves and Hate Music but really comes into his own with Los Angeles, Be Kind's warm tremolo and dreamlike chorus, making superior lighters-aloft rock that feels anthemic even in its smallness. That’s the key to Owl John, really: it creeps up on you, a quirky surprise in familiar clothing.