Owel
The Salt Water Well


3.5
great

Review

by Mathias STAFF
January 22nd, 2022 | 31 replies


Release Date: 01/21/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Larger-than-life rock that flatters to deceive, but sometimes it's nice to be flattered.

No matter the sound they go for, Owel always go big. Their self-titled debut was an innovative post-rock piece, while their 2016 effort, Dear Me saw vocalist Jay Sakong take center stage in a synth-heavy, larger-than-life sound, while 2019’s Paris was beautifully lush orchestral rock. The Salt Water Well is their biggest yet, seeing the band attempt to mash together every sound that they’ve attempted before, creating an absolutely colossal sound and an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. The Salt Water Well is Owel’s most maximalist record. Even with everything that they attempt, it somehow manages to be Owel’s most cohesive record. Before, many of their albums seemed like a connection of brilliant ideas that were also loosely connected by a similar overarching sound. The Salt Water Well does away with this style. Instead of trying different sounds in each song, Owel instead finds themselves including every possible style in every track. Miraculously they make it work, but also sacrifice a bit of what made them special in the first place.

Much of what makes The Salt Water Well work is due to the brilliant production on the album. There are so many components to each composition and they all blend together in a complementary way, never competing with each other to become the standout moment. This isn’t a collection of songs written with strings added in after or a rock band adding synth to their music simply because it’s en vogue. Each component included seems absolutely essential to each song, every note meticulously placed in a way that doesn’t get lost in the vastness of the track. Normally an album that’s this loaded with details reveals even more with each listen. While that is certainly true of The Salt Water Well, one of the more special things about this album is how much each of these details is readily noticeable. These aren’t so much layers as they are bricks, each piece of the sound crucial to the foundation of the song. Flourishes are perfectly timed so you have no choice but to notice them, as opposed to being Easter eggs to be found on future spins. Opening track “End” is the perfect encapsulation of this style. Its constantly changing dynamics sees a large reliance on synth and vocal effects, but there are moments of strings and pianos that pop in throughout, creating moments that add to the music as opposed to merely being additions. Normally an album this grand in scope can either become grating or fall in on itself because it tries too much. The Salt Water Well tries just enough, knowing when to explode, but also knowing when it needs to draw back and let the small details take center stage.

However, this masterful mixture of all they’ve attempted before doesn’t come without any trade offs. Hidden beneath the grand sound are deceptively simplistic song structures. With the exception of two tracks, every single song ends with a repeated phrase that is sung over an extended outro, just begging for people to sing along. Almost every song also features an instrumental bridge about three to three-and-a-half minutes in, leading to an explosive final minute or so and slow fadeout in the last 30 seconds. The instrumental artistry hides the fact that most of The Salt Water Well is actually pretty basic. The description of “End” in the prior paragraph could be used to describe essentially every song on the album. Even though there are no large choruses to be found, The Salt Water Well is, essentially, sophisticated arena rock, with many songs having pop sensibilities that don’t always seem like they may track with the overall vision of the album. The predictability in the songwriting is more than balanced out by the instrumental creativity in the compositions, but these shared features do become extremely noticeable on repeated listens. As opposed to Owel’s previous albums that saw individually complex songs tied together using a similar sound, The Salt Water Well sees a complex sound that is used across similar songs.

In spite of this, each individual track still offers more than enough on its own to justify its inclusion. At points The Salt Water Well does threaten to blend together, with the cohesiveness of its sound becoming both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Owel manages to ride that border, finding the golden ratio of unique moments per track to make them all stand out in the overall vision they’ve created. Coming in at a crisp 38 minutes, The Salt Water Well manages to be larger than life but digestible all at the same time. What appears to be grand may be slightly less so if one looks beneath the surface, but what’s the fun in looking for the flaws on something so shiny?



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user ratings (34)
3.5
great
related reviews

Paris


Comments:Add a Comment 
dmathias52
Staff Reviewer
January 22nd 2022


1723 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Kinda fun reviewing milestone for me, since this is the first band where I’ve reviewed two of their new releases on this site. Go listen to Paris, it’s absolutely beautiful. This one sounds amazing on the first couple listens, but loses it’s sheen as you keep going. I keep coming back anyway, so that’s gotta mean something



Huge thanks to Gnocchi/Nocte/Robert for proofing this for me. I initially tried to review without name dropping individual tracks, he pointed out some points where that was detrimental, and so I tried to find an in between by detailing one song because all of them could essentially use the same descriptors

Pikazilla
January 22nd 2022


22991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Some of the bits on this were lovely. Agreed with the score!

GreyShadow
January 22nd 2022


5829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm not really getting the "larger than life" from this. I feel like it's by far their most tame in scale. however, I don't think that's an inherent fault considering how good each song sounds and how well they work as a unit. Not the direction I would've picked for them, but one I found my self appreciating nonetheless.



4 albums in is a great time to say this band can do no wrong

Digging: Peregrine (USA-MA) - the awful things we've done

GreyShadow
January 22nd 2022


5829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

also omg pika, you like this too?! *smiles*

Slex
January 22nd 2022


13742 Comments


This band bores me every time that I try them, bummer

Digging: Coheed and Cambria - Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2022


3936 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Really easy to read review, and loved reading it. Great work. Small typo in second para I think: 'track song'. First sentence of that para is also a bit tricky to read. Otherwise sweet!



Checking this and don't think it's my thing, but definitely see the appeal.

Digging: Ethel Cain - Preacher's Daughter

Tundra
January 23rd 2022


7313 Comments


Terrible album unlistenable

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2022


17113 Comments


Waiting for the album title to be Johnny’s new handle

Tundra
January 24th 2022


7313 Comments


Disappointed to see the lack of hype for this album on both here and RYM

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2022


3936 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

What do you like so much about it? I'll give it another go soon.

GreyShadow
January 24th 2022


5829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's so pwetty



Gala is looking like the early favorite atm. love a nice lil waltz. End, We All Get Lost, and Beneath The Static Haze are close enough behind.

GreyShadow
January 24th 2022


5829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

but more importantly tbh, must say. Dear Me is looking like a 4.5, they really pulled all the stops there.



Dear Me > Paris > s/t > this I think??? but yeah, still love this. what a band. big shame the world is how it is, their album release show got cancelled *sadface*

Demon of the Fall
January 24th 2022


24608 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

smells like 'pre-epiphany Sowingcore' so far

Digging: Gospel - The Loser

Demon of the Fall
January 24th 2022


24608 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Gala sounds like Muse, not the 'best' Muse but most certainly better than whatever drivel they've been churning out for years now. Sounds like a post-Black Holes track from another slightly better universe. Maybe that's just me.

Project
January 24th 2022


5416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Hidden beneath the grand sound are deceptively simplistic song structures."



in fairness, that's always true of Owel -- they're just really good at dynamics and texture so that even when you know exactly when the climax is going to hit, it still hits hard.



lovely writeup, and I'm pretty sure I agree with this score, unless this grows on me massively

TheSonomaDude
January 24th 2022


8491 Comments


never heard of this group, but i love that album cover. good review too

GreyShadow
January 24th 2022


5829 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I guess I can kinda see the Muse comparison?



thing like Copeland, Deas Vail, and As Tall As Lions come to mind quicker. these guys have probably solidified themselves as my favorite of those kinds of dream rock bands

Feather
January 24th 2022


8105 Comments


I loved Paris, so am definitely interested in trying this out

alexslavco
January 24th 2022


110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is great

Brinner
January 24th 2022


93 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It is a more cohesive, intimate release compared to the grandiose Paris, but is a great album all the same. I'll also say that it took a few listens to really grip me... first listen was underwhelming but subsequent listens have been far more rewarding.



Nice review!



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