Breathe Owl Breathe can’t help but emanate the winter chill of their Michigan home. The trio’s acclaimed 2007 release, Canadian Shield, announced the band’s arrival with brittle, insular tunes muted like the snowy landscape that surrounds them. The climate informed their lyrics, too, particularly on the debut’s opening “Shovel,” with Micah Middaugh playfully engaging the banal exercise of shoveling snow. "There’s two feet of snow, since we spoke,” he sings. “There’s icicles all in a row, They look like fangs, about to close."
Magic Central, Breathe Owl Breathe’s Owl Breathe’s fifth album, finds the band bristling like a cat on an un-insulated window ledge in January, living the cold but dreaming of the sun. “Own Stunts” draws isolation from finger-picked guitar and a stripped apart piano, and the trio deals dead-pan swing with “Dragon.” But Middaugh (guitar, vocals), Andréa Moreno-Beals (cello, vocals) and Trevor Hobbs (percussion), find warmth together with the tender “Dogwalkers of the New Age,”explore “Parrots in the Tropical Trees” with a banjo tip-toe, and stoke ember-bright repetition throughout “Across the Lochs” with its vibrant vocal teaming between Middaugh and Moreno-Beals, and a simple chorus: “I was afraid of losing you, I was afraid of losing you down by the docks.”
And that muted tone; it remains at the core of Magic Central. Even at its most celebratory, the simple construction of Breathe Owl Breathe is elegantly understated. It is truly magic.
Magic Central is out now on Hometapes.