Magic Central

Breathe Owl Breath // Magic Central

We’ve got two new discoveries this week that are blowing our mind.  Both albums have been out for a bit.  But you need to hear them.  Now.

First up comes Michigan’s Breathe Owl Breathe and their first album for Portland’s Home Tapes label.  (We’re not the only one playing catchup with this band now.) I’ve been to Michigan – it has surprisingly dense and rich forests, the perfect places for a band like this to hide out until the time is just right.  And the time is right.

Born on the breeze of the Yann Tiersen tour, this record came recommended by Michael over at Ear To The Sound.

Intimate vocals married to plaintive acoustic picking dominate the landscape, and this record would not sound out of place next to Mojave 3/Neil Halstead or Sun Kil Moon.  What really sets this band apart is  lead singer Micah Middaugh’s lyrics and delivery.  Earthly, yet obsessed with the otherworldly.  Immediate, and yet looking beyond.

“Look down – there’s a welcome mat over a trap door. Whats on the other side? The spirit world.”

For our next piece of evidence, we present from House Of Gold: “Paralyzed by beauty. Don’t leap from the balcony… oh yes, there are handclaps.”  And then handclaps kick in.  Its this irreverence that helps set this band apart.  The playfulness, the lack of pretension, the happy-go-lucky vibe… we’re smitten.

Dragon pretty much seals the deal on our new love affair. The fairy-tale introduction to the song is the most endearing and whimsical thing we’ve heard in ages.  And a playful introduction to the little worlds that Breathe Owl Breathe create.

Andrea Morena-Beals’ voice is the perfect contrast to Micah’s plaintive whisper, sounding like some combination of Feist and Julie Doiron.   Effortless arrangements and a refreshing lack of clutter help make Magic Central an outstanding and accomplished debut.

Catch Breathe Owl Breathe opening for Yann Tiersen at The WECC on Feb. 27.

(Skip the first 15 seconds of the video. The rest of the song is gold.)

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Dan Mangan is nice.  And you know what they say about nice guys.  But if Verge has anything to say about it, Dan will be a household name very soon.

His new album Nice, Nice, Very Nice has been a slow burner.  At first his plaintive and very literal lyrics put me off, Dan’s delivery straight as an arrow.  But I’m getting used to it and getting into it.  I’ve come to appreciate the unflinching honesty and self-histories.  The directness.  I think we need more honesty in music right now.

There’s no pretense or bullshit.  Just a man, writing songs about the world he experiences.  This has been done a thousand times before, but these songs hold up, and the production holds up, and everything feels like a sign of good things to come.  I’m on my 4th time through the album, and find that I smile more and more with each listen.

The pulse of Road Regrets serves as a great invocation.  Robots lets down, but is quickly made up for with The Indie Queens Are Waiting – a duet with Veda Hille.  Veda’s bird-like voice contrasts Dan’s rustic intimacy perfectly.  Sold picks up where Road Regrets left off, frantic hand claps and all.  Fair Verona and Et Les Mots Croises highlight the middle of this album, with their effectual and ever-personal passages.  Set The Sails aches with the high hopes and sordid failures of Vancouver, personified and reflective.

Nice, Nice, Very Nice harkens back to the idealistic days of mid 90’s Canadian folk.   And it announces the arrival of a talented new troubadour onto our national scene.