When you think of new indie music, you usually think rock, pop, electronic, or even folk. What you usually don’t think is jazz. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to fix that. Introducing Olivia’s Owls, a London, England-based jazz band, consisting of Hedi Pinkerfeld on bass, Alex Coppard on sax, Nick Costley-White manning the guitar, and Josh Stadlen holding everything together on the drums. Their sound is so amazingly smooth and refined that it’s not even funny. It’s basically like eighteen-year-old scotch for your ear-balls (and, yes, that was an Archer reference).
But enough of that jazz (get it?). Less talking, and more listening.
For all of you playing the home game, here’s a link to their YouTube page. I highly recommend listening to their music while reading this review, so open up a new tab in your browser, and follow the link (go on, I’ll wait).
Now, the band is still in its infancy, so there’s only three songs on their YouTube page, but if they’re anything to go by, these guys could one day be among the jazz greats.
‘Resigned to the Unresolved’ is first up, and it’s the perfect intro to the Owls’ sound. Muted guitars and shuffled drums provide the perfect backing canvas for Coppard’s sexy, sinuously smooth sax sounds. Add to that a muttering bass in the background and you have a sonic tapestry that’s so solid and unified that it could hold an elephant. The track is perfect Sunday morning listening, and it’s actually interesting because the song itself almost seems to mirror a Sunday morning. It starts out quietly, almost groggily, and then around the one-minute-and-twenty-seven-seconds mark, it picks up, blossoming out into a sort of sunlit soundscape. Alternating between a smooth, steady harmonic flow, and a more crunchy, slightly dissonant tone, the track is wonderfully varied, and the sax solos (well, they’re not actual solos, per se) are just so perfectly controlled. This is one of those tracks that you’ll find yourself playing over and over again, and with each replay you’ll find some other new little detail interwoven in the sonic canvas, that’ll keep you coming back to this track for days.
‘The Motions’ starts off with Costley-White on guitar, and after a while the rest of the band joins in and the sax grows in intensity, leading to a sort of duet with the guitar. Both instruments seem to have their own leitmotif (like two different arias in an opera), and both seem to go off on their own little journeys. While these two themes (guitar and sax) are different (and sometimes clash with one another), you can tell that everything is intentional, highly controlled, and the interplay between the two works great. The track rounds off with the sax sending us off, into the night (or some other such jazzy, noir-esque metaphor). I think it’s a great touch to have the guitar start off the track and the sax round things off. It’s a great little piece of symmetry that’s so well done and so subtle that you might even miss it on your first listen.
‘Pyjama Days’ is the last of the three tracks on the Owls’ YouTube channel, and I can honestly say that they’ve saved the best for last. A moderate drive from Josh Stadlen on drums keeps things flowing at a nice, even clip, while rest of the guys get their crunch on. The whole track is slightly punchier than the other songs, and I must say that it’s a great way of keeping the band from falling into self-repetition. Even so, their sound manages to remain the same, smooth, flowing balance between harmonic consonance and occasional dissonance. Around the one-minute-and-thirty-four-second mark, the guitar solo kicks in, and I’ve gotta say that it’s one of the smoothest and most mellifluous solos this side of Pat Metheny. All of this is held together by what I’ve come to call the Olivia’s Owls vibe. It’s just that sort of smooth yet driving, laid back yet engaging jive that the band seems to favour.
These guys most definitely deserve a lot more press, and if you guys feel like supporting them, I sincerely ask you to go to their YouTube page, or their home page – www.oliviasowls.com – and most importantly, keep an ear out for more of their stuff. They ran a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of last year that was, tragically, not successful. However, if you guys enjoy their sound, then favourite, and subscribe the hell out of their songs, and be generous with your dough, if they decide to redo their Kickstarter stint. Talent like this should not go to waste.