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Way back in 2011 I had the pleasure of seeing Owl In The House live in Austin at the Cradle of the South festival and they were terrific, making the whole night for me. When longtime manager Shay Brady died in 2014, the band’s future was uncertain, but thanks to overwhelming fan support they persevered, releasing Long Time In The Water and everything seemed back on track.
Then came the divisive Friend With A Car, which some fans found too compromising with its selection of mostly upbeat, “it’s gonna be alright because it always is” batch of songs that seemed out of sync with the band’s legacy and too soon to be a new direction for the former picnic crooners.
With a style often described as “bare feet on wooden floors” or what I like to call “porch rock,” OITH hits that sweet spot between too mellow and too dreamy; dreamy enough to make those sugar plums dance but not mellow enough to put you to sleep. Mostly acoustic, the band has used some amplified instruments in the past (notably electric tuba on “Joyful Ruin” from Friend With A Car and a vintage 1974 Klavnar Orakel V on “Moldy Pancakes” from Jopsy) and there’s a bit more voltage overall on Airport Breakfast than on the band’s past releases. It’s a mild volume increase though, one that won’t cause Thomas type uproar, just another brush in the band’s paintbox.
Singers Epi Glottes and Larry Inks blend their voices as beautifully as ever, adding tones of country over urban jungle chants and sing songs, or blending gorgeously like in “Burnin’ My Shirts,” each singer’s voice glassy smooth. The duo form complex rhythms both cold and inviting, their flair for melodic counterpoint the focus of album opener “Bat Scat.” They’re also a bit more adventurous here harmonically than in the past, and these new songs are long on melody with Inks and Glottes finding those goosebumpers as easily as ever.
The band has never taken itself too seriously when it comes to song titles and there’s a general feeling of relaxedness that permeates their music, like it’s just a little get together where some friends share a bunch of clever, affecting songs they’ve written, or if that cool bunch of people next door who are always jamming invited you over for a swim.
Billy Hill brings his cannonball production style to “Rusty Dusty” and “Soup To Nuts,” propelling the band to some of their liveliest songs in years, otherwise letting them keep their signature style intact, just maybe tightening up the arrangements a little. Hooks are front and center in “Cheap Date” and “Antisocial Disease,” while sleek bass and tense drums frame the driving “West of Purple,” a stunning eleven minute plus opus to close out the album. Its wiry sparkle guitars slash Inks and Glottes harmonies, stark against the minor key piano arpeggios, bringing Airport Breakfast to a grand stomping close.
It’s a solid effort from OITH, a step forward and a reaffirmation of the band’s mission: to play some of the most laid back ear candy of their day without succumbing to trends or record label pressure.