Review Summary: Rekindling.(Icarus the Owl is streaming exclusively through Sputnik in the following link: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/blog/2014/01/28/icarus-the-owls-self-titled-stream/)
Many of us persistent music listeners stopped following modern prog the instant it seeped into so many other styles of music, when it proceeded to contribute considerable fluff over formative structuring. So trust me, I totally
get that a “progressive pop rock” (dubbed by the band itself, mind you) album like Icarus the Owl
sounds as if it belongs to a genre hybrid that would've worked best a few years ago, when it had been less thoroughly explored. For starters, this album has those breakneck tapped guitar lines, which are utterly taxing for those unaccustomed to such a style, and on top of that, Joey Rubinstein’s vocals brandish everything
about pop-punk that causes unease in those dipping their proverbial toes in the genre. It's no secret that subtlety is hard to come by in Icarus' trademark sound- even if this record does roll along more smoothly than 2012’s Love Always, Leviathan
Sonically over-the-top music like this may have been more my thing a few years ago, sure, but that sure doesn’t mean it can’t get to the core of me when done well in 2014. Icarus The Owl’s self-titled record is an amalgam of everything I’ve loved about all these differing styles over the last few years. It’s a substantial offering of the same feelings I got when I first heard prog done well- the realization that a single group of people can accomplish so many interesting sounds and textures with their instruments. But the album also offers the memorability that truly special releases sometimes need- despite the occasionally overwrought song structures on Icarus The Owl
, it features a consistently melodic core that persists long after the record stops spinning. Some songs wear hooks on their sleeves, like the soon-to-be fan favorites (“Flint and Steel”) and the songs that could belong on the radio, if only for thirty seconds (that introduction to “Crimson Covered Walls”, seriously.) Others take their time to boil, but eventually settle to some sort of melodic crux that defines the tune.
It’s these moments that really matter. No matter how impressive Joey Rubinstein’s guitar chops are, it’s the melodies that drive this record home. It hits on so many points that Love Always, Leviathan
only occasionally struck, and it’s more carefully calculated on the whole. Just listen to “In Aeternum” and maybe you’ll hear what I do: a band who creates complex, dynamic, intimate tunes about love and longing. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sure as hell tired of pretending those concepts don’t apply to me anymore.
Dedicated to Andcas
I just can't get over the drums on this album. I love them. Upon first listen I was a little
disappointed, but after a few spins and a few days, the strengths are starting to show.
The first three tracks are my favorite, Crimson Covered Walls gets special mention for the miniature
drum solo (most tracks have the drummer shoving inventive fills into every corner, but this track
stands out). Flint and Steel & the last few tracks are kind of weak to me though, at least compared
to the strong start.
The 'melodic crux' you mention is something I wish was a little more consistent. The first three
tracks really made it look like we were going to get something simply structured and highly
melodic, but the rest proves to be slightly more chaotic. Not messy - just fast, energetic, upbeat,
and, instrumentally, up and down the musical scale.
Every now and then, a lyric will combine with a soaring vocal to almost border on cheese - pop/punk
circa last decade cheese - but it never crescendos into anything bad.
I really wish there were as many standout hooks as Love Always, Leviathan, (one of the best
discoveries I've made here on Sputnik over the years) since I find that the second half of this
album blurs together if you're not paying attention, but that doesn't stop it from being a fantastic
album in it's own right.
(Edit: Obligatory mention of your 9001 comments and it's associated meme.)
Interesting that you say that, man. I do agree the first half is more consistent, but some of the last few songs on this record have fuckin' crazy moments. Like, "Input. Time. Destruct."'s main verse is so dense, man. Can't get over that one. And "Chronos"'s staggering chorus, and "Crimson"'s layered vocals at 2:21 kill me every time.
I do think one of the flaws in the second half is that the songs go tense fairly often and Icarus isn't as interesting when they aren't as happy-go-lucky. Like, best example is the 1:22 mark in "Input." but then again, killer bridge AND verse after it so.
That first statement is very controversial, and it doesn't fully make sense either. What exactly do you mean by disregard here?
Most of us began to disregard prog the instant it seeped into every style of music, when it proceeded to provide billowing fluff over formative structuring. So trust me, I totally get that a “progressive pop rock” (self-dubbed) album like Icarus the Owl feels far removed from relevancy for a lot of us critical music listeners.
Also, why would I think an album is removed from relevancy based purely on its genre (and without even hearing it)? You explain a little that this album features some real genre cliches, but does the lack of experimentation or belonging to a certain genre really make an album irrelevant already beforehand? Idk, I just really don't like the word "relevancy" here.
But the album also offers the memorability that truly special releases sometimes needI would reword that, because it reads really awkwardly (I'm pretty sure all releases need to be memorable in order to be special).
damn Nomos you keep editing that comment, probably to make my response look certifiably basic
That post started as a bloated "FIRST!!!" and ended as a miniature review. The last few songs do certainly have their moments. I think my only problem with them is that these amazing moments are few and far between and are surrounded by verses that are a bit same-y.
I edited that first sentence a bit, Magnus. Thanks for the point-out. I've been thinking about your second point for a bit, but I haven't yet thought of a better way to phrase the 'relevancy' part. What I'm trying to say is that this album caters to a sound/style of music that many would argue became irrelevant after 2010 or so- as in, I've heard few bands that pull off this style of music in a unique way- i.e., that don't sound like The Dear Hunter clones. I'll think on it some more and see if some time helps me out.
Torn on whether I should give this the time of day it probably deserves. I'm so back logged on reviews. I mean I want to, but it doesn't fit my schedule.
I'm not gonna spend time begging you to listen, man. May be your kinda thing, may not, but I do hope that if you check it out, you'd like what you hear. It is a fairly polarizing sound, though.
And Magnus, I've edited the first few sentences a fair bit. Nothing egregiously questionable in there anymore, so thanks again.
It is a fairly polarizing sound, though.
That may be all the push I need, it's just going to be later in the week rather than never. Cheers
Nocte, it's worth it. At least spin the first few tracks (I believe their Bandcamp page has some) and that will give you a good indication whether they're your type or not.
Album Rating: 4.0
Nice review man.
Album Rating: 4.0
Yeeeeeaaaaah, Omaha bringing the Icarus love.
Album Rating: 4.0
Still haven't heard this dammit, both their previous albums were great.
Never heard of this band but daaaaaaaaamn
enjoyed the stream i think it is really cool and nice when bands stream albums on sputnik music dot com i am happy
Album Rating: 4.5
yeah, this rules very hard. I'm predisposed to liking this kind of stuff though
Album Rating: 4.5
This reminds me a lot of the newest I the Mighty album
There's some cool stuff here musically but I can't stand these vocals
Album Rating: 4.0
i think i like this better than their last one, but i forgot.
Digging: TOOTHGRINDER - Nocturnal Masquerade