sat 06/06/2020

CD: Owl & Mouse - Departures | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Owl & Mouse - Departures

CD: Owl & Mouse - Departures

Australian sibling band hit home with a set for the broken-hearted

Owl & Mouse, mapping lost love

Owl & Mouse is a name so cutesy that even the Scottish legions of twee who bloom, decade after decade, from the ashes of Eighties indie – the Pastels, Camera Obscura, Belle & Sebastian, etc – might flinch at it. And like that movement, with its endless coy, baby-sweet reassessment of the Velvet Underground, the music of Owl & Mouse initially seems to have a glaze of guilelessness about it, a pride in naivety. Keep listening, though, sucking down the sugar-coated but eventually lovelorn lyrical themes, and this debut defies such expectations.

Owl & Mouse are not from Scotland, they’re from Brisbane – now based in London – and consist of sisters Hannah and Jen Botting alongside a band made up of indie sorts (the Bottings themselves are siblings of the bassist from Fortuna Pop! perennials Allo Darlin’). There is, however, no shoe-gaze or toy punk guitar here. The 11 songs are based, by contrast, around Hannah’s gently strummed ukulele, the sisters’ characterful vocals and thoughtful, precise lyrics. A good example is “Basic Economics” with its cynical overview of broken love: “All I wanted was someone to hold/It’s all going to depend on supply and demand/You might get what you want but it won’t be what you planned.”

Fans of Emmy the Great will find much to enjoy, and occasionally bassist Tom Wade drops in to add Lee Hazlewood-ish charm, growling shyly on songs such as “Misfits” and “Sinking Song”. The overall tone is laid out in the titular chorus of “Sick of Love” but Departures isn’t a mordant affair. It sparkles with an observational wit that lifts it, even on the violin-tinted hopelessness of “Louie”, about keeping the flame alive for a lover who’s leaving, a theme that reappears throughout. Every song sounds as if there’s a story attached, making the listener want to know more. It’s not an album that has any attack – except, perhaps, the two minute brass-fuelled bounce of the title track – but Owl & Mouse’s simple, understated odes to a heart-worn sadness eventually have bite.

Overleaf: watch the llama-centric video for "Octopi"

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