Review Summary: Songs first. Flashy showmanship second.
Icarus the Owl are the archetypal gap in the market. Avoiding the over-simplification of ‘what would happen if genre X met genre Y?’, the Portland quartet create a gorgeous blend of pop sensibilities and technical accomplishment with a ton of heart to hold the pieces together. On Rearm Circuits
, no unfamiliar ground is trodden - which may come as a disappointment to the more prog-oriented section of their fanbase - but what they do (with no small amount of ease) is cut a very fine cross-section of the composite parts that make them so appealing in the first place.
There is no alienating tech-wankery (for want of a better phrase) on show here, nothing heavy for the sake of heavy, nothing twee for the sake of twee, just an incredibly well-structured and well-presented pop record. You may well query that final descriptor for a band that have as much to offer as Icarus the Owl do, but this is no criticism. Pop is absolutely the band’s strongest suit - that they are using their technical nous and undoubted instrumental ability to round off their already impressive song-writing chops with a flourish rather than relying on virtuosity alone is what allows them to stand out rather than end up as a droplet in the ocean of modern day progressive pleasantry. It is telling, therefore, that the centrepiece of this record is also the most accessible track - the chillingly beautiful ‘Coma Dreams’, a heartbreakingly soppy ode to leaving the rest of the world behind to create a new one with the one you love. Elsewhere, the schizophrenic but bouncy ‘Dream Shade’ and the electronically infused ‘Shadowboxing’ all scream out for the radio, but offer so much more beyond a background listen. With all of this said, however, Icarus v5.0 are by no means without teeth. The angular, chaotic strains of ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ and ‘Failed Transmissions’, for example, will please the listener with a taste for a bit more grit, adding a little of their familiar post-hardcore leanings to the melting pot.
This record is masterful at putting songs first and flashy showmanship second – a restraint that many of their peers would do well to remember. Rearm Circuits
is not concerned with being cool, nor is it focused on structuring itself rigidly to the universe it creates – it’s far more whimsical than that – but each song is created with an organic passion and flair that can’t help but bring a smile to one’s face.