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|Owl-bums: A Historo-Ornithological Overview|
A brief and incomplete, but nonetheless important overview of Owlbums of note through the decades.
Fly by Night
1975 - The granddaddy of them all. Note that this owl, despite persistent rumors to the contrary, is actually illustrated, this release having predated the advent of photography by nearly a decade. His stern, mighty, mightily stern look sets quite a tone, one that would owl-volve considerably through the years. An iconic A+
|2||Barclay James Harvest|
Gone to Earth
1977 - A comparably minor owl, but compensates for its distance by cutting an angular, energizing semi-profile. Truly another standard-bearer, and it's no surprise that there'd be an over-20-year drought in owl imagery to follow, musicians seeming to have gotten together and collectively agreed that it was best not to even try after this era-defining one-two punch. Then again, mayhaps we should consider the failure of hair metal and grunge to try their hands at owls a blessing in its own right. An almost-as-iconic A
1998 - Flying(!) forward quite a bit, here we encounter the welcome-yet-unfortunately-underwhelming reemergence of the owl in the late 90s, once again shrunken down (this time, ironically, due to inflation), and looking an awful lot like the nighttime counterpart to those folders we all had with dolphins and other sea life on them. Alas, even the mysteries within its so dearly clutched scroll cannot elevate this seabird. A disappointing C-
Southern Rock Opera
2001 - The illustrious illustrated owl finally makes its flight, as was inevitable, over to the realm of alt-country. A smaller owl in stature, again, and drawn less-than-tidily (albeit deliberately so)--but its piercing gaze belies its minuscule scale; in fact, it is purportedly what ultimately drove then-member Jason Isbell to get his act together and sober up, even if his subsequent solo career (thus far) has curiously remained notably owl-free. A rough-around-the-edges but respectable B
|5||Magnolia Electric Co|
Magnolia Electric Co
2003 - No doubt finding purchase and thriving within its new environs of Americana, here we witness the owl at last triumphantly grow to occupy nearly the entirety of the frame--so much so he is forced to cock his head in order to fit, as well as look a bit sassy as a happy byproduct. A minor masterpiece, which sets a new standard. A resounding A
|6||The Pax Cecilia|
Blessed Are The Bonds
2007 - Are these owls or rabbits, amiright? Or, perhaps more apt and befitting their new stylistic home, hydras? Since they've certainly multiplied quite a bit in just a few short years. Quantity doesn't always equal quality, of course, but here, fortuitously, it very much does. Bonus fact: While it's well-known that one owl is called Pax (upper left) and another Cecilia (lower right), the names of their companions remain unconfirmed to this day. A prolific A-
|7||Cult of Luna|
2008, circa July - Again finding itself yoked to a genre--in this case, post-metal--here we find the owl apparently growing to gain dominance over its adopted home and turning sinister, even demonic in the process. In fact, there are scholars who question whether this creature can even in good faith be called an owl at all. Your intrepid researcher, meanwhile, finds it better not to question such an intimidating (and buff!) entity. (A genre-based sidebar/topic for discussion: How is it that Kayo Dot's entire catalog remains devoid of owls?) An imposing B+
|8||Peter Bradley Adams|
2008, circa August - Perhaps as a direct attempt to reclaim the owl for the folksier set (and just one of many bitter battles between those longtime rivals of legend and lore, post-metal and alt-country--a war worthy of a historic inventorying in and of itself), this owl arrives a mere month after Cult of Luna's, and cuts a much more minimalist, organic, altogether back-to-basics figure. If anything, it is this same tendency towards the small that both strengthens and undercuts the owl in equal measure, rendering it both stark and potent but with the nagging sense that something's been left unfinished; the ripples of this inter-genre volley would be felt for years to come. A schismatic B
|9||The Dear Hunter|
2010, circa April - After more than a year of radio silence, the owls return in droves in 2010, starting with this confused addition to the lexicon. Looking like the foppish dandy cousin to Cult of Luna's gym rat(-eater)--though, in fairness, who among us can truly claim to know what muscles may reside behind those clothes?--the anthropomorphic owl-man produced here is the clear byproduct of an artist, nay, a culture, a CIVILIZATION still reeling from the wake of the Great Schism of 2008. It is, on the one hand, noble in its attempt to reconcile the camps, producing a naturalistic, crisp, penciled aesthetic but portraying the "manimal" look of Luna; alas, the end result comes off half-hearted and bemused/ing. It does, to its credit, actually feature a song called "Owls." A well-intentioned but baffling C+
2010, circa May - An owl-volution, one called the Owl by Way of Lovecraft, Owl by Way of Illithid, or Owl by Way of Quarren, depending on whether the scholar at hand is more of a weird lit, fantasy, or sci-fi guy. Regardless, yet another distinct result of cultural confusion, and not even the reliably arresting artwork of John Dyer Baizley of Baroness (a band marked, as much as anything, by its staunch avoidance of owls, Baizley clearly respecting the proverbial boundary between Church and State) can fully transcend its own bewilderment, despite the enthrallment (wishful thinking?) of the flanking humanoids. A getting-better-but-still-not-quite-there B
2010, circa May - Here, meanwhile, we find the absolute antidote to our cultural owl-ments--a perfectly timed tonic that many rightly argue is deceptively innovative in its striking simplicity. At long last, we get an actual photographic representation of the owl (cameras, for their part, having serendipitously been invented at some point in the otherwise-insignificant-to-owls 1980s), swooping in as perhaps the only honest way to rectify what had become a murky mire of dueling interpretations, and rightfully so. Echoes, in all the right ways, Rush's moody, literally blue blueprint, and sets a new standard for all owls to come. A triumphant A+
|12||This Patch of Sky|
This Patch of Sky (S/T)
2014 (also: 2018) - Having reached an overdue zenith, owls again disappear into the night for years on end, finally flocking back nearly half a decade on. Another intentionally un-fussy showing, although at the sacrifice of true memorability. The owl, we see, is both zoomed-in-upon yet somehow, simultaneously, less in focus; this, it turns out, is an apt summation of the piece as a whole, which acts more as contented continuation than attempt at anything independently iconic. Worth noting is that the recent re-release (view here: https://www.popmatters.com/this-patch-of-sky-2593790897.html) only seems to double down and bolster this theory, aping even more directly Deftones' modern skyward watershed. An effective-yet-complacent B-
2016 - Setting themselves apart as the only artists bold enough to return to the Owl-well, Kvelertak's second stab at the bird is, in many ways, a return to the roots of Barclay James Harvest. Gone are the tentacles and harem, replaced by a profiled figure, poised for the hunt. Overshadowed, almost literally so, by its human companion, the only thing holding back this owl is his behemlted buddy, diminishing and distracting as he is; however, the potential the bird himself tensely embodies is nothing to discount. As well, it incidentally serves as an appropriate note to end things on, as we await with rapt(or) anticipation the next visitation from our feathered friends of forty-four years and counting. An expectantly excited B
2001 - Here, as a historo-ornithological addendum, we have our rogues' gallery (or: gowlery). Unworthy even of grades, this and the following are just utter letdowns. I mean, just look at this artwork. Not an owl in sight, let alone multiple. What an absolutely tremendous disaster. Music's one thing, but, as the scholars say, jeez louise, guys.
The Hawk Is Howling
2008 - Trickery, trickery. Though it fooled many a decade ago, meticulous research in the intervening years has shown that this bird is certainly not an owl, and questionably even a hawk. A shameful chapter in owl history.
All Things Bright And Beautiful
2011 - This "artist" has six albums, and of those, this is the only one with any sort of bird in sight. That alone is damning, but exacerbated by this image-as-insult: Are we expected to believe that those are owls in the distance? In a flock? IN BROAD DAYLIGHT? Let's be real. This isn't even an owl village.
|17||Icarus the Owl|
Love Always, Leviathan
2012 - Another classic case of false advertising, as there's nary an owl to be found through this band's catalog, not even a cartoon, Tootsie-Pop-styled mascot. The argument has been made the the tidal wave depicted here is a spiritual sequel to Nightwish's work, but come on. Is it swimming?
|18||He Was Eaten By Owls|
Chorus 30 From Blues for the Hitchhiking
2016 - Despite the lovely sentiment of its title, this artist shamefully squanders a wonderful opportunity to show, rather than tell. All the more disappointing for its lost potential.
|Lol amazing. 15 |
|no Owl John or Dungen|
|Those are good catches, although in my ow(l)n defense, Owl John is too sad to berate. Dungen is a definite owl-versight, though.|
|I'll be back with more owls.|
|eagle, if you're interested: Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions|
|genuinely great list.|
|dude no Weird Owl reference|
"I'll be back with more owls." would be a fantastic owlbum title.
|on the prOWL|
|Rivers Of Nihil - Where Owls Know My Name|
|this was fun|
|Avatar- feathers and flesh (2016) [its even a concept album about an owl]|
|Also well-deserved feature|
|missing Wow, owls!|
|Neil Halstead - Palindrome Hunches|
You get two owls dude, but they're censored
|The Dandy Warhols - This Machine|
|will there be an eagle-centric follow-up?|
|Hmmm. Might could be, might could be...|
|this is awesome |
|love going camping with my friends and when i hear an owl hoot saying excitedly "OMG I LOVE THIS SONG"|
|Best fucking list in Sputnik history. Quality research and commentary. Pos, my friend. Massive pos.|
|I had a very good laugh with this thank you|
|Thanks to all for the kind words, and for noting my numerous owl-versights. A few others that have come to my attention, having slipped my seemingly diligent research:|
Erase Errata - Nightlife (aptly named!)
Trampled by Turtles - Palomino (understated, but elegant [owl-egant?] and impactful)
Steve Von Till - A Grave Is a Grim Horse (a reconciliation of the folk and post-metal factions?)
Also, a question for the class: Would My Morning Jacket's Z qualify? For what it's worth, my official thought on the matter is, after much academic analysis and personal introspection, kinda.
|Superb list. However, it's missing:|
It even contains Hedwig's Theme!
|True, although in that case, the question does arise as to the legitimacy of an exogenous owl, and whether it can truly be counted among the Owl-bums in the traditional sense.|
Meanwhile, just this week, sludgester compatriots Big Business, no doubt heartened by this very list, have swooped in:
|Yes Trampled by Turtles have essential owlbum|
|we need to make sure this thread never dies|
|11's cover is adorable|
|This is wonderful|
|I regret to append the marvelous work of one who is plainly a sagacious scholar in this most intriguing of faculties, however he appears to have overlooked the subtle feathered friend on the cover of Kings X's seminal Gretchen Goes to Nebraska - a fine tawny if ever I've seen one. |
|This is truly incredible research. Should be posted on the wall in the Louvre|
|Possibly Sputnik's best list.|
|Ha! You think Owls are real?|
|I will not have that talk in this esteemed forum.|
|They are a state of mind|
|About to rotate out of the Featured section on the homepage, so for posterity's sake:|
|Smh this needs to be updated to include my suggestion before it fades into the nether|
|Thanks to this list I discovered that I really like Icarus the Owl, despite their heinous lack of owlish artwork.|
Praise the Owls.
|Wow, the moment you find a new owl-bum. This ones pretty bad though, warning you in advance.|
What did they do with those poor owls, splintering them and all!?
|Splintering indeed! What an owl-trocity.|
|THE OWLS WILL RISE!|
|Part 2 with our recs when?|